In a rare rebuke of US policy, Chinese leader Xi Jinping on Monday accused Washington of leading “containment, encirclement and suppression” efforts against the communist power.
“Western countries — led by the US — have implemented all-round containment, encirclement and suppression against us, bringing unprecedentedly severe challenges to our country’s development,” Xi lamented in a speech to China’s top political advisory body Monday, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Throughout his decades-long reign of power, Xi has generally held back from criticizing the US in public remarks.
But his comments on Monday come as investors worry that the Chinese economy has been ravaged in recent years in part because of policies implemented by Xi, including his zero-COVID mandate.
Last year, China’s economy endured its worst performance in nearly a half-century, with growth down to less than 3% and double digit youth unemployment.
Xi sought to boost confidence within the private sector Monday, insisting that the Communist Party “has always regarded private enterprises and private entrepreneurs as our own people,” per the Wall Street Journal.
But by accusing the US of “suppression” and “containment,” it appears Xi is attempting to pass the buck to the West for his country’s domestic woes.
The accusation comes amid rising tensions between the US and China in the wake of last month’s spy balloon incident — which saw surveillance craft reportedly launched from China’s Hainan Island hover over sensitive US nuclear weapons sites and cross the US mainland before being shot down off the coast of South Carolina on Feb. 4.
US officials say China has rebuffed calls from Washington since the shoot-down.
Beijing has also ramped up its aggressive military operations near Taiwan in the past few years, including by flying warplanes over the island’s air defense identification zone.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) had hoped to visit Taiwan upon taking the speakership, but he will now meet with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen in California rather than Taipei amid increased tensions.
“There might be policies even more irrational than in the past emanating from Beijing,” a Taiwanese official told the Financial Times regarding the prospect of McCarthy traveling to the island nation.
Western leaders also remain concerned that China will provide lethal military aid to Russia as the Kremlin struggles to conquer Ukraine after more than a year of fighting. The concerns remain despite China’s public calls for peace talks to take place.
On Sunday, the authoritarian Chinese government announced it was boosting its annual military budget by about 7%, to $224 billion.
While just over a quarter of the $858 billion Congress approved for the Pentagon in 2023, China’s People’s Liberation Army has the distinction of being the world’s largest military force.