Friday 20th November 2020
Even after his election defeat, Trump does not want to leave the stage to his Chinese rival Xi Jinping. The tensions between the US and China are overshadowing the upcoming Asia-Pacific summit.
With his participation in the Asia-Pacific summit, US President Donald Trump wants to counter the growing influence of China in the region. In the deliberations of the heads of state and government on Friday, Trump wanted to participate temporarily, as a high-ranking representative of the US government in Washington confirmed. Because of the corona pandemic, the summit of the 21 members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Community (Apec), chaired by Malaysia, will take place via video.
It was unclear whether there would be a direct exchange between the elected, incumbent US president and the also participating Chinese state and party leader Xi Jinping. Both of them last spoke on the phone on March 27, before the pandemic really started. Afterwards Trump was full of praise for Xi Jinping: “Great respect!” “China has gone through a lot and developed a good understanding of the virus. We are working closely together,” Trump wrote on Twitter about the “very good conversation”. Since then, there has been no radio broadcast.
Trump blames China for pandemic
There are also serious tensions over the ongoing trade war, Beijing’s tough course in Hong Kong, the persecution of the Uyghur minority and the ensuing American sanctions. The relationship between the two largest economies has fallen to its lowest level since diplomatic relations were established four decades ago. Today Trump does not miss an opportunity to blame China for the “plague”, the “China virus” – also to divert attention from his own failings, as critics say. He accuses China of not having acted quickly enough and inadequately against the massive outbreak a year ago in the central Chinese metropolis of Wuhan. “We have to hold the nation to account that unleashed this plague on the world – China,” Trump said in September before the UN General Assembly.
The day before, however, China’s president had already appeared self-confidently in front of Apec business leaders in Kuala Lumpur, as the most populous country has largely controlled the virus since the summer and today there are hardly any infections. China’s authorities used strict measures, quarantine, contact tracing and strict entry restrictions. “We have achieved great strategic success in the fight against the virus,” said Xi Jinping in his speech on video.
China also managed to get production going again and thus to achieve growth again in the first three quarters, emphasized Xi Jinping. With the world in deep recession, China will be the only major economy to grow this year – an estimated two percent. “These hard-won achievements speak volumes for the resilience and vitality of the Chinese economy,” said Xi Jinping. Russian President Vladimir Putin and the new Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga also take part in the video summit of the Pacific neighbors.
Two meetings in a short time
Two years ago, Trump only sent Vice President Mike Pence to the meeting, which was seen as a sign of a lack of interest in the region. In 2019, hosts Chile had to cancel the meeting due to unrest in the country. The Apec community formed in 1989 represents more than half of global economic output and 39 percent of the world’s population. In addition to China, the USA, Russia and Japan, it also includes South Korea, Canada, Mexico, Chile, Peru, New Zealand, Australia, Papua New Guinea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. The summit follows less than a week after the conclusion of the world’s largest free trade agreement between China and 14 other Asia-Pacific economies.
The “regional, comprehensive economic partnership” or RCEP, as the pact is abbreviated, comprises 2.2 billion people and a third of the world’s economic output. In addition to China and the ten states of the Southeast Asian economic community Asean, US allies such as Japan, Australia and South Korea are also participating in the free trade pact, the conclusion of which was seen as a success for China. On Saturday, Trump and Xi Jinping will meet again – at the also virtual summit of the group of large industrial nations (G20) chaired by Saudi Arabia. It is the first meeting of the heads of state and government of the illustrious G20 group since the outbreak of the pandemic. Chancellor Angela Merkel will also take part in the two-day deliberations.