What happened at Xiangshan this week?

Military and other leaders from 90 countries will today wrap up three days of security talks in Beijing for this year’s annual Xiangshan Forum. Launched in 2006, this is the event’s first in-person iteration since before COVID.

Didn’t make it along? Here are some of the more intriguing moments: 

  • 🤝US-China: China’s decision to invite the US is a signal it’s open to re-engaging, after cutting military ties when Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan last year. But top brass Zhang Youxia still took a veiled swipe at the US in his keynote address, claiming “certain countries keep stirring up trouble around the world”.
  • 📢 Global Security Initiative (GSI): Beijing also promoteditsGSI, which President Xi first announced last year. It’s still thin on details, but officials used the concept to highlight the US-led world order’s shortcomings, while packaging China’s wins (like its earlier brokering of Saudi-Iran ties) as representing a viable alternative.
  • 🌎 And the main guest was Russian Defence Minister Shoigu (one of 22 defence ministers there), who accused the US of “steady escalation… fraught with catastrophic consequences”.

Intrigue’s take: This kind of military diplomacy is on-brand for China:

  • The event’s theme was ‘Common Security, Lasting Peace’, and
  • Its guest list and program both emphasised the ‘Global South’.

It all sought to project China as a source of peace and stability. Meanwhile, nations with a different view of China (like the Philippines) opted to send a lower-level delegation, or just skipped the forum altogether.

Also worth noting: 

  • Presidents Xi and Biden have reportedly agreed to meet in San Francisco next month. The two leaders last met in November 2022.
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