File photo of Chinese President Xi Jinping | Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg
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Chinese President Xi Jinping took a veiled swipe at U.S. leadership in a speech marking Beijing’s 50th anniversary as a member of the United Nations, comments that come as Washington moves toward helping Taiwan play a bigger role in international forums.

“China has always pursued an independent foreign policy of peace, upheld justice and resolutely opposed hegemonism and power politics,” Xi said, in comments that stopped short of naming the U.S.

The Chinese leader vowed that his nation would “stick to the road of peaceful development,” adding that nations should work together to address issues such as terrorism, climate change, cybersecurity and biosecurity.

“Only by forming more inclusive global governance, more effective multilateral mechanisms and more active regional cooperation can we effectively deal with them,” Xi said.

Tensions between China and the U.S. have lingered since a trade war erupted during the Trump administration. Beijing has stepped up military pressure on Taiwan this year, and President Joe Biden last week said the U.S. was committed to defending the democratic government in Taipei from a Chinese attack, comments Beijing denounced.

Xi is expected to use a major meeting of the ruling Communist Party in November to bolster his case for a third term in office. A key point selling point for Xi is that he is standing up to the U.S. on issues from efforts to determine the origins of the coronavirus to Taiwan, which China views as a breakaway province that must be brought under Beijing’s control.

That friction is likely to escalate after high-level diplomats from the U.S. State Department and the Taiwanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs met Friday via video to discuss Taipei’s participation at the UN and other international forums.

“The discussion focused on supporting Taiwan’s ability to participate meaningfully at the UN and contribute its valuable expertise to address global challenges, including global public health, the environment and climate change, development assistance, technical standards and economic cooperation,” the State Department said in a statement.

State Department official Rick Waters said last week that China has been misusing UN Resolution 2758 — which in 1971 recognized Beijing as the legitimate representative to the UN instead of Taipei – to stop Taiwan from playing a big role in the organization, according to the semi-official Central News Agency in Taiwan.

China’s embassy in the U.S. hit back at the remarks, saying in a statement that they “disregard facts” and were “highly misleading.”

“This is a serious political provocation to China and a malign distortion of international law and universally recognized norms governing international relations,” the statement said, adding that China lodged a solemn representation with U.S. diplomats.

Five decades ago when Mao Zedong led China, the UN voted to give Beijing a seat and expel Taipei, saying that the former is the “only legitimate” representative of China. The People’s Republic of China, now led by Xi, holds a permanent seat on the Security Council and plays a large role in UN bodies that handle issues such as climate change and food security while working to exclude Taiwan.


Also read: China wants to tame Internet algorithms. It’s all about national security


Defending Taiwan

Biden answered “yes” when asked during a CNN town hall Thursday whether he could pledge to protect Taiwan. “I don’t want a Cold War with China — I just want to make China understand that we are not going to step back, we are not going to change any of our views,” Biden told host Anderson Cooper in Baltimore.

A White House spokesperson later said Biden didn’t announce a change in U.S. policy toward Taiwan. The U.S. would continue to uphold its commitment under the Taiwan Relations Act, support Taiwan’s self-defense and oppose unilateral changes in the status quo, the spokesperson said.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin offered only a mild rebuke of Biden’s comments, urging the U.S. to “speak prudently” on Taiwan and abide by its agreements. Xi and Biden are preparing to hold their first summit via video since the U.S. presidential election. Washington is aiming to hold the meeting later next month, Reuters has reported, citing people familiar with the matter.


Also read: As Taiwan pushes back against China reunification call, a look at the 350-year-old dispute


 

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