In his keynote address to the annual Boao Forum last Tuesday, Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered one of the clearest statements to date of China’s ambitions on the global stage, rejecting hegemony, whether for China or any other power, and calling for an international order in which China is consulted on an equal footing. “We must not let the rules set by one or a few countries be imposed on others, or allow unilateralism pursued by certain countries to set the pace for the whole world,” Xi said, in a not-so-subtly veiled reference to the U.S. and its Western allies.
Dubbed “Asia’s Davos,” the four-day event on the southern island of Hainan was canceled last year due to the coronavirus pandemic. A largely virtual version was held last week to signal to foreign investors that China is once again open for business.
But Xi also used the forum, which took place on his own turf days before the virtual climate summit hosted by U.S. President Joe Biden, as an opportunity to send a message of his own. “What we need in today’s world is justice, not hegemony,” he told an audience that included foreign dignitaries like South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Indonesian President Joko Widodo, as well as American business leaders, including Tim Cook of Apple and Elon Musk of Tesla.