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Beijing’s charm offensive is working

Xi with Lula in Beijing. Ken Ishii/Getty

While Joe Biden was on a soppy tour of Ireland last week, says Gideon Rachman in the FT, “Xi Jinping was busy in Beijing”. The Chinese premier played host to President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil – and the results were “congenial to China and disturbing to the US”. The Brazilian leader said he wanted to work with Xi to “balance world politics” and accused America of “incentivising” the war in Ukraine. He also advanced the long-standing Chinese goal of reducing the importance of America’s currency in global finance, commenting: “Every night I ask myself why all countries have to base their trade on the dollar.”

Meanwhile the Chinese are flexing their diplomatic muscles in the Middle East. Earlier this month, for example, they hosted a meeting between officials from Iran and Saudi Arabia in Beijing. The message from Xi to the non-aligned world is clear: “While America promotes war, China promotes peace. While China promotes trade, America imposes economic sanctions.” This is obviously causing concern in Washington – former US treasury secretary Larry Summers spoke last week of “troubling” signs that America was losing influence, quoting an anonymous official from a developing country: “What we get from China is an airport. What we get from America is a lecture.” Western haughtiness is part of the reason the Russian economy has found it so easy to evade US sanctions – sick of being talked down to by Washington, many governments have just ignored the restrictions. “Rather than doing less trade with China, some countries are looking to do less trade in dollars.”