Trump and Xi haven’t spoken to each other for eight months. The relationship is broken. Therefore, the Apec summit was eagerly awaited. But Trump was somehow not really there.
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The contrast was striking: while China’s president Xi Jinping Talked about the fight against the pandemic at the Asia-Pacific summit, spat the Twitter account of the US President Donald Trump one message after another about alleged fraud in his election defeat. Even at the start of the video conference of the 21 heads of state and government of the Asia-Pacific Economic Community (APEC), Trump, who was connected to the White House, looked noticeably distracted, almost disinterested.
First contact in eight months
It was not the big appearance that the elected, incumbent US president might have wished for at the most important summit of the Pacific neighbors on Friday. Host Malaysia interrupted the live TV broadcast after the kick-off – even before Trump made his speech. The meeting of the Apec economic community was the first, albeit virtual, contact with his rival, China’s head of state and party leader Xi Jinping, in eight months.
Trump and Xi Jinping last spoke on the phone on March 27 – before the Corona-Pandemie really started. Afterwards Trump was full of praise for Xi Jinping: “Great respect!” China has been through a lot and developed a good understanding of the virus. We work closely together, “wrote Trump on Twitter about the” very good conversation “.
Trump blames China for the pandemic
Since then there has been radio silence. There is serious tension over that Trade war, Beijing’s tough course in Hong Kong, the persecution of the Uyghurs and American sanctions. There is talk of a “new Cold War”. Trump tries to limit the economic and technological rise of China and its influence. He is pursuing a “decoupling” of the US economy. The relationship between the two largest economies has fallen to its lowest level since diplomatic relations were established in 1979.
APEC summit in Malaysia: Due to the corona pandemic, the summit of the 21 members will take place via video conference. (Source: Vincent Thian / AP / dpa)
Today Trump does not miss an opportunity to blame China for the “plague”, the “China virus” – also to divert attention from his own failings, as critics say. He accuses China of not having acted quickly enough and inadequately against the massive outbreak a year ago in the central Chinese metropolis of Wuhan. “We have to hold the nation to account that unleashed this plague on the world – China,” Trump said in September before the UN General Assembly.
“Great strategic success in the fight against the virus”
In contrast, Xi Jinping appeared very self-confident, knowing that Trump will soon be gone. The most populous country has had the virus largely under control since the summer and today hardly counts any infections. China’s authorities are using strict measures, quarantine, contact tracing and entry restrictions. “We have achieved a great strategic success in the fight against the virus,” Xi Jinping said the previous day via video to business leaders.
China also managed to get production going again and thus to achieve growth again in the first three quarters, emphasized Xi Jinping. With the world in deep recession, China will be the only major economy to grow this year – an estimated two percent. “These hard-won achievements speak volumes for the resilience and vitality of the Chinese economy,” said Xi Jinping.
Chile had to cancel meetings because of unrest in the country
Russia’s President will also take part in the video summit Wladimir Putin and the new Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga attended. Two years ago, Trump only sent Vice President Mike Pence, which was seen as a sign of a lack of interest in the region. In 2019, Chile had to cancel the meeting due to unrest in the country.
The Apec community formed in 1989 represents more than half of global economic output and 39 percent of the world’s population. The summit follows less than a week after the conclusion of the world’s largest free trade agreement between China and 14 other Asia-Pacific economies. The “regional, comprehensive economic partnership” (RCEP) comprises 2.2 billion people and a third of global economic output.
Free trade pact was seen as a success for China
In addition to China and the ten states of the Southeast Asian community Asean, US allies such as Japan, Australia and South Korea. The free trade pact was seen as a success for China, which was able to further expand its influence in the region.
On Saturday Trump and Xi Jinping will meet again – at the also virtual summit of the group of large industrial nations (G20) chaired by Saudi Arabia. It is the first meeting of heads of state or government since the pandemic began. Also Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) will take part in the two-day deliberations.