by N. Peter Kramer
Last week, the war in Ukraine dominated the G20 meeting. The participants (the 20 richest economies) did not reach a joint final statement. Russia and China accused that ‘other countries’ were meddling in internal affairs and boycotting the democratisation of international relations by excluding countries.
All the topics normally dealt with at the G20 were put aside for the theme of the war in Ukraine. The G20 took place in India, which is taking a neutral stance. So Prime Minister Narendra Modi tried to find some form of consensus and called, without any success, attention to poorer countries, where food and energy prices have risen as a result of the war in Ukraine. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken tried to persuade G20 participants to condemn the invasion of Ukraine and to impose sanctions if China supplied arms to Russia.
It is increasingly clear that China is becoming a major player in the conflict. China together with India launched a peace proposal. It was rejected by Kiev before ‘the ink was dry’. But Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang reiterated during the G20 that his country will make every effort to start peace talks.
On Monday, President Xi Jinping made a statement during the annual meeting of the People’s Congress of China: ‘In recent years, China has been constrained, suppressed and blocked in its development by Western countries, with the United States leading the way’. Xi’s open criticism differs from statements in the past, in which he rather vaguely targeted ‘certain countries’, without directly mentioning the US or the West by name.
Today in the People’s Congress, Minister Qin Gang came back on China-US relations and warned for a potential conflict. ‘Containment and suppression will not make America great. It will not stop the rejuvenation of China’. He added: ‘It (the US) regards China as its primary rival and the most consequential geopolitical challenge. This is like the first button of the shirt being put wrong’.