Pence and China’s Xi deliver dueling speeches
Vice President Mike Pence and Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered dueling speeches Saturday that offered a window into how the two governments are seeking a truce over tariffs – but remain fundamentally at odds over economics, diplomacy and the race for global influence and primacy.
Pence, taking the stage shortly after Xi at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Papua New Guinea, launched a pointed and wide-ranging criticism of China, not just over its commercial practices but also over its transcontinental infrastructure projects and military activ- ity in the South China Sea.
Reiterating U.S. commitment to Asia, Pence saved his most pointed words for Xi’s flagship foreign policy initiative – the infrastructure investment plan known as the Belt and Road Initiative – as he warned countries about accepting Chinese loans for port and transportation projects scattered from Pakistan to Indonesia.
“We don’t drown our partners in a sea of debt. We don’t coerce or compromise your independence,” Pence said. “We do not offer a constricting belt or a one-way road.”
The United States “offers a better option,” he said as he unveiled a new regional transparency initiative and $60 billion in U.S. investments for the region.
The Trump administration has voiced a far harder line against China and its growing footprint and rising assertiveness, spurring talk on both sides of the Pacific of a new cold war.
The Chinese president delivered a more conciliatory address on Saturday as he warned that “confrontation, whether in the form of a hot war, cold war or trade war, will produce no winners.”
He dismissed criticism of his Belt and Road Initiative as a debt “trap” and instead positioned himself as a leader of the developing world who could help lift up poor countries in its orbit.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, right, talks Saturday with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison at the APEC Economic Leaders Meeting summit in Papua New Guinea.