US Vice-President Mike Pence & Chinese President Xi Jinping cross swords at 2018 Apec summit

Palpable tension.

Belmont Lay | November 19, 2018, 01:47 AM

United States Vice-President Mike Pence and Chinese President Xi Jinping crossed swords at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Papua New Guinea on Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018.

Both sides blamed the other country for the trade war and rivalry.

What Xi said

Addressing the key trade war issue on Beijing's agenda these days as its economy has cooled, Xi urged the business and political leaders gathered in Port Moresby to uphold free trade and promote a multilateral system in his 40-minute speech.

Xi said: “History has shown that confrontation, whether in the form of a cold war, a hot war or a trade war, produces no winners.”

Xi also spoke about China's eagerness to foster regional cooperation via its “Belt and Road Initiative”.

“The belt and road (plan) is an open platform for cooperation. (It is) neither designed to serve any hidden political agendas nor to target anyone,” Xi said.

“It does not cause debt traps, as some want to label it, (but) is a transparent project that brings common development to the world.”

Xi launched the trillion-dollar programme in 2013.

It was meant to be a way to boost connectivity between China and the Eurasian land mass.

What Pence said

In Pence's speech, he accused Beijing of intellectual property theft and its insistence on forced technology transfers.

The current trade war is a response to the decades of inaction on Washington's part, as documented here and here, in a two-part article by Post Magazine.

Pence said: "We have great respect for President Xi and China, but as we all know, China has taken advantage of the United States for many, many years and those days are over."

“The US will not change course until China changes its ways.”

There was still room for the White House to introduce new tariffs on Chinese goods, he also said.

Pence also talked about the Indo-Pacific strategy, which is backed by Australia and Japan.

Pence said, without mentioning China specifically: "As we are all aware, some are offering infrastructure loans to governments across the Indo-Pacific and around the world."

“Yet the terms of those loans are often vague at best, projects they support are often unsustainable... too often they come with strings attached.”

“Know that the US offers a better option,” he said. “We don’t drown our partners in a sea of debt, we don’t coerce, or compromise your independence... We don’t offer a constricting belt or a one way road.”

However, Pence also said Washington “believed progress could be made”.

Trump and Xi will meet in the Argentinian capital Buenos Aires at the end of the month on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit.

The talks will be the first between the two leaders since the trade war began.

Palpable tension

Neither Xi nor Pence listened to the other’s speech.

The two leaders gave their speech via a conference room on a cruise ship moored in Port Moresby harbour.

The tension between the two nations was also evident at a photo call for the 21 Apec member nations' leaders.

While Xi stood beside Papua New Guinean President Peter O’Neill for the Saturday afternoon shoot, Pence was conspicuously absent from the shot.