Vice President Mike Pence and Chinese leader Xi Jinping exchanged barbs and tough talk in competing speeches to world leaders Saturday, with Pence warning the United States could double its tariffs on Beijing unless it bowed to U.S. demands.
Pence, speaking at the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) summit in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, showed no hint of compromise. He said the U.S. would not change its course until China changes its ways.
“We have taken decisive action to address our imbalance with China,” Pence said. “We put tariffs on $250 billion in Chinese goods, and we could more than double that number.”
Washington is demanding that China stop intellectual property theft against U.S. companies, slash a $375 million trade gap, cut industrial subsidies and improve access to Chinese markets.
President Trump was not at the summit, but will meet with Jinping in at the G-20 summit in Argentina that begins later this month, Reuters reported.
Pence also took aim at China’s construction of manmade islands in the Pacific and its “Belt and Road Initiative,” which involves billions of dollars of infrastructure development in Asia, Europe and Africa.
He called many of the projects low-quality ventures that saddle developing nations with loans they can’t afford, while saying the U.S. is a better partner.
“Know that the United States offers a better option. We don’t drown our partners in a sea of debt, we don’t coerce, compromise your independence,” Pence said.
“We do not offer a constricting belt or a one-way road. When you partner with us, we partner with you and we all prosper.”
Pence has spent nearly a week attending Asian summits assailing China’s military and economic influence, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Xi spoke before Pence, calling protectionism “shortsighted” and “doomed to fail.”
He expressed support for a global free trading system and said nations face a choice of cooperation as unilateralism spreads.
“History has shown that confrontation, whether in the form of a Cold War, hot war, or trade war will produce no winners,” Xi said.