By Praveen Menon and Shashwat Awasthi
WELLINGTON (Reuters) -The Asia-Pacific region must not return to the tensions of the Cold War era, Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Thursday, ahead of a virtual meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden expected as soon as next week.
Xi, in a recorded video message to a CEO forum on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit hosted by New Zealand, said attempts to draw ideological lines or form small circles on geopolitical grounds were bound to fail.
“The Asia-Pacific region cannot and should not relapse into the confrontation and division of the Cold War era,” Xi said.
Xi’s remarks were an apparent reference to U.S. efforts with allies and partners in the region, including the Quad grouping with India, Japan and Australia, to blunt what Washington sees as China’s growing coercive economic and military influence.
China’s military said on Tuesday it conducted a combat readiness patrol in the direction of the Taiwan Strait, after its Defense Ministry condemned a visit by a U.S. congressional delegation to Taiwan, the democratically governed island claimed by Beijing.
Combative U.S. diplomatic exchanges with China early in the Biden administration unnerved allies, and U.S. officials believe direct engagement with Xi is the best way to prevent the relationship between the world’s two biggest economies from spiraling toward conflict.
A date has not been announced for the Xi-Biden meeting, but a person briefed on the matter said it was expected to be as soon as next week.
Xi said achieving economic recovery soon is the most pressing task for the region, adding that countries must close the COVID-19 immunisation gap.
“We should translate the consensus that vaccines are a global public good into concrete actions to ensure their fair and equitable distribution,” Xi said.
The regional leaders are meeting as part of a week-long series of APEC conferences culminating in a summit on Friday and Saturday, hosted entirely online by New Zealand, a country with hardline pandemic control measures that has kept its borders closed to almost all travellers for 18 months.
Climate change has been a key item on the agenda at the summit, which is taking place in parallel with the United Nations’ COP26 meeting in Glasgow, as world leaders and businesses work towards lowering emissions and combating global warming.
Xi highlighted the importance of managing climate change to ensure sustainability and said China would achieve its carbon neutrality targets within the time frame it has set.
“Our carbon reduction action will also require massive investment, thus creating huge market opportunities and room for cooperation. The business communities across the Asia-Pacific are warmly welcome to join us in this endeavor,” Xi said.
New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, said in her opening address at the meeting that APEC had taken steps to wean the region’s industries off fossil-fuel subsidies.
“Why on earth are governments subsidising fossil-fuel use to the tune of some $500 billion every year? I’m pleased that APEC is turning the tide on these subsidies by taking concrete steps to tackle them,” Ardern said in her virtual address.
(Reporting by Shashwat Awasthi and Praveen Menon; Additional reporting by Michael Martina, David Brunnstrom and Eric Beech; Editing by Peter Cooney)
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