Xi Jinping kicks off first day at G20 with whirlwind of meetings with US allies

Xi Jinping kicks off first day at G20 with whirlwind of meetings with US allies
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Bali, Indonesia

After an absence of nearly three years from the world stage, Chinese leader Xi Jinping has embarked on a whirlwind of face-to-face meetings with Western leaders at the G20 summit in Bali as he seeks to reaffirm China’s global influence.

After a three-hour meeting Monday with US President Joe Biden to try to keep their rivalry from escalating into open conflict, Xi is holding talks with leaders of Australia, France and South Korea on Tuesday.

China’s relationship with these three US allies has deteriorated to varying degrees in recent years, due to rising geopolitical tensions, trade disputes and the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic.

While expectations of a relationship reset are low, the meetings could serve to head off disagreements and reopen lines of communication — similar to how Xi and Biden met.

On Monday, the Chinese leader pushed back on a central premise of Biden’s foreign policy — the global clash between democracy and autocracy, and the willingness of Western countries to view relations with Beijing through that prism.

In a Chinese reading of his meeting with Biden, Xi described his country’s system of governance as a “Chinese-style democracy,” in an apparent signal to US allies that ideological differences should not become an impassable chasm in their relations. with Beijing.

In a sign of Xi’s busy schedule, the Chinese leader and French President Emmanuel Macron met early on Tuesday, before the two leaders appeared at the opening of the G20 summit.

The talks, which lasted 43 minutes according to Chinese state media, saw Xi reiterate his support for a ceasefire and peace talks to end the war in Ukraine.

“Xi stressed that China’s position on the Ukraine crisis is clear and consistent, advocating a ceasefire, an end to the war and peace talks,” said a reading of the news outlet’s report. Chinese State CCTV.

France, like other European countries, has hardened its stance on China in recent years, increasingly viewing the country as a competitor and a security concern.

For most of the pandemic, Xi has limited his diplomatic activities to virtual summits and video conferences, choosing to stay in China rather than travel abroad.

But perhaps Xi’s most anticipated in-person diplomacy on Tuesday is his meeting with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, in part because ties between Beijing and Canberra have frayed significantly in recent years.

The two countries have been locked in a deadly trade dispute and diplomatic freeze since early 2020, when China imposed tariffs on Australia following its call for an investigation into the origins of the coronavirus.

The leaders of the two countries last met when Albanese predecessor Scott Morrison had brief informal talks with Xi at the G20 in Japan in 2019. But it has been six years since the leaders of the two sides have not held a formal bilateral meeting after Australia. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s meeting with Xi at the G20 in the Chinese city of Hangzhou in 2016.

Announcing his meeting with Xi after arriving in Bali on Monday, Albanese said the meeting alone was a “successful outcome”, pointing to the lack of dialogue at the highest level for years.

“It is not in Australia’s interest not to engage with our major trading partners,” he told reporters, adding that there were no preconditions for the meeting.

“I look forward to having a constructive discussion with President Xi tomorrow,” Albanese said.

As with the meeting between Xi and Biden, few Australians expect the meeting between Xi and Albanese to completely reset the strained relationship between the two countries.

“China’s core objectives such as its policies on the South China Sea, Taiwan and the South Pacific are fundamentally at odds with Australia’s core interests,” said Australian policy expert John Lee, senior researcher at the think tank at the Hudson Institute in Washington and former national security adviser to the Australian government.

“It may be a sort of diplomatic reset, but not in substance, where both sides start to come together in genuine good faith and are willing to compromise,” Lee added.


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