Xi Jinping: Trump Bullying Beijing Is Like a No-Rules Boxing Match, but China Is Stronger Than Qing Dynasty

Leaked European Union diplomatic cables have shed light on the tense relationship between the U.S. and China as the two nations square off over trade and global influence.

Among the leaked cables obtained by The New York Times were a handful describing the stance of Chinese President Xi Jinping toward President Donald Trump, illustrating that a confident Beijing is prepared to stand up to the White House's attacks.

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The communications were intercepted over a three-year period by a group of hackers employing techniques resembling those of an elite unit of China's People's Liberation Army (PLA), the Times reported. They were copied from a secure network and posted to an open internet site that the hackers had set up. More than 1,100 of the hacked cables were sent to the newspaper by Area 1, an anti-phishing internet security firm.

Conversations about an emboldened China under Xi—recently named president for life—were a significant feature of the hacked communications. Particularly noteworthy were diplomats' views on on the ongoing confrontations between Beijing and Washington.

In one account of a private meeting with Xi in July, European officials quoted the president vowing his country "would not submit to bullying" from the U.S., "even if a trade war hurt everybody."

The diplomatic notes record Xi's assertion that while the EU and China both focused on common rules for global trade, "the U.S. was behaving as if it was fighting in a no-rules freestyle boxing match. The U.S. had thrown all rules out of the window and unilaterally imposed labels on others without providing them with the possibility to defend themselves."

Xi added that U.S. policy left China with two options: backing down or fighting back and taking countermeasures. "Caving in would embolden the bully," he said. "The Chinese people would not accept this."

The president also warned, "China was not a backward country anymore," according to the diplomat who took notes of the meeting. Referring to the early 20th-century imperial dynasty that was dominated by foreign nations and eventually fell to domestic rebellion, Xi "noted that today's China was not that of the Qing dynasty and that Chinese people were resilient."

"China had been through poverty and hardship when it was under blockade," the note added. "The Chinese would take hardship again, if that was what it would take. But if the U.S. wanted talks, the Chinese door remained open."

The hackers also broke into network at the United Nations, the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations and multiple ministries of foreign affairs and finance across the world.

Many of the more than 100 organizations targeted were not even aware of the breaches until a few days ago, or when informed by Area 1.

Area 1's investigators told The Times they thought the hackers worked for the Strategic Support Force of China's PLA. "After over a decade of experience countering Chinese cyberoperations and extensive technical analysis, there is no doubt this campaign is connected to the Chinese government," said Blake Darche, one of the firm's experts.

Donald Trump Xi Jinping China Beijing
President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping attend an event inside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, on November 9, 2017. Leaked European Union diplomatic cables have shed light on the tense relationship between the U.S. and China as the two nations square off over trade and global influence. NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images