China's Xi Jinping Takes Swipe at U.S. 'Position of Strength' at BRICS

Chinese leader Xi Jinping dismissed as folly President Joe Biden's intention to ensure that the United States competes with China from a "position of strength."

During a virtual address from Beijing for the annual BRICS Business Forum, China's president repeated his view of the world as undergoing changes "unseen in a century." He used the occasion to push back against U.S. alliance-building in Asia, as well as the West's sweeping sanctions against Russia, which Xi warns may have unintended consequences.

"In the past century, humanity has gone through the scourge of two world wars and the dark shadow of the Cold War. The tragedies of the past tell us that hegemony, group politics and bloc confrontation bring no peace or security; they only lead to wars and conflicts," Xi told the event, which was attended by representatives and business groups from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

"The Ukraine crisis is another wake-up call for all in the world. It reminds us that blind faith in the so-called 'position of strength' and attempts to expand military alliances and seek one's own security at the expense of others will only land oneself in a security dilemma," he said, in a direct reference to Biden's policy directive to compete with China "from a position of strength by building back better at home and working with our allies and partners."

The same phrase has also been picked up by Secretary of State Antony Blinken and others at the State Department. Their Chinese counterparts have protested the framing as condescending from the very start.

Fraught Relationship

The fraught relationship between the U.S. and China has only worsened as a result of their contrasting positions on Russia's invasion of Ukraine—Washington with its outright condemnation of Moscow, and Beijing, mindful of its vital strategic partnership with the Kremlin, refraining from the same.

The U.S. argues that China's stated neutrality on the conflict is disingenuous, while China blames the West and NATO for triggering the war by failing to consider Russia's "legitimate security concerns."

Despite the U.S.'s view of Russia as an "acute threat," it sees China as the only country with both the intent and the capability to reshape the postwar international order in its image, at the expense of American interests and those of its closest allies.

Since the outbreak of conflict in Europe, Xi has sought to convince Beijing's neighbors to contemplate the specter of war in Asia. In April, he proposed a "global security initiative" for the region to take its long-term security into its own hands, and by extension expel the U.S.-led alliance architecture.

During his BRICS speech, Xi referenced his initiative once more, urging countries to "stay committed to the vision of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security."

"We in the international community should reject zero-sum games and jointly oppose hegemonism and power politics. We should build a new type of international relations based on mutual respect, fairness, justice and win-win cooperation," he said.

The Chinese leader, who observers believe will seek, and secure, an unprecedented third term in office this November, drew attention to the world's ongoing battle against COVID, as well as the energy, food and debt crises.

He also took an indirect swipe at the recently enacted Uyghur Force Labor Prevention Act in the U.S., accusing certain unnamed countries of "deliberate disruptions" to supply chains. Xi also suggested Western sanctions against Russia would spillover into developing countries, also harming those who imposed them.

"It has been proved time and again that sanctions are a boomerang and a double-edged sword. To politicize the global economy and turn it into one's tool or weapon, and willfully impose sanctions by using one's primary position in the international financial and monetary systems will only end up hurting one's own interests as well as those of others, and inflict suffering on everyone," he said, again without explicitly naming the U.S.

Key U.S. partner New Delhi has continued its strategically important economic relationship with Moscow despite the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

At a Center for a New American Security conference last week, the White House's Indo-Pacific coordinator, Kurt Campbell, said it wasn't realistic to expect all U.S. allies and partners to adopt the same position on Russia's actions, given unique national interests.

However, Campbell said the long-term goal was to ensure that the West, including the U.S., could provide India with other viable alternatives, especially for its defense industry, which is at present reliant on Russian-made equipment.

Xi Jinping and Joe Biden
In this combination image, President Xi Jinping (R) of China attends the BRICS Summit in Brasilia, Brazil, on November 14, 2019. The Chinese leader was critical of U.S. alliance-building in Asia and Western sanctions on Russia in his opening remarks at the BRICS Business Forum on June 22, 2022 and U.S. President Joe Biden speaks about gas prices in the South Court Auditorium at the White House campus on June 22, 2022 in Washington, DC. Getty