Late Thursday evening, Eastern Time, Chinese General Secretary Xi Jinping said, “Once provoked, thing will get ugly.” This was in a new speech marking the “War to Resist U.S. Aggression and Aid Korea,” as the conflict is known in China. “No matter the country, no matter the military, no matter how powerful, if they are standing in opposition to the world’s trends, bullying the world’s weak, trying to turn back history, engage in aggression and expansion, this will inevitably lead to bloodshed,” Jinping added.
Xi made multiple thinly veiled references at President Trump’s policies in the speech, although his explicit mentions of the U.S. focused on the past. The bellicose tone provided a dramatic demonstration of Xi’s renunciation of the “hide and bide” strategy that characterized China’s careful accumulation of power for decades, although the Chinese leader stipulated that the display was intended to deter potential threats.
Jinping also said, “The Chinese people understood that you must use the language that invaders can understand — to fight war with war and to stop an invasion with force, earning peace and respect through victory. The Chinese people will not create trouble but nor are we afraid of them, and no matter the difficulties or challenges we face, our legs will not shake, and our backs will not bend.” Xi maintained that China is “not to be trifled with,” given the financial and military resources at his disposal
That speech is one example of how a combination of domestic and foreign policy assessments is driving an escalation of rhetoric as the U.S.-China rivalry intensifies. Trump’s national security team emphasized the benefits of “reciprocity and candor” just hours after Xi’s speech.
“Reciprocity is the straightforward idea that when a country injures your interests, you return the favor,” said Matt Pottinger, a White House deputy national security adviser, Friday morning. “It is eminently reasonable and readily understood, including by would-be aggressors. It’s an inherently defensive approach, rooted in notions of fair play and deterrence. Public candor actually promotes peace by reducing the space for strategic blunders.”
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