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Xi Jinping may have rejected US President Joe Biden’s description of the 21st century as a battle between democracy and autocracy, but as the G20 and APEC summits showed, the Chinese leader is determined to push back US influence abroad. Are willing
Still enjoying the glow after a Communist Party congress that last month saw him consolidate and increase his grip on power at home, Xi has been in China’s zero-tolerance with a flurry of in-person meetings in Bali and Bangkok last week. Covid emerged from isolation.
In contrast to his self-cultivated image as an ideological hardliner, Xi attempted to portray himself as a broad-minded politician, telling Biden in their meeting last Monday that leaders should “think about Need and know how to get along with other countries and wider. World.”
The sweeping diplomatic outreach appeared specifically aimed at US allies and regional leaders caught up in the intense rivalry between Washington and Beijing. Since taking office, Biden has strengthened ties with allies and partners to counter China’s growing influence.
“The Asia Pacific is nobody’s backyard and should not become an arena for big power competition,” Xi said in Biden’s absence at the opening of an APEC summit on Friday.
The whirlwind of high-handed diplomacy represents a victory for Xi, whose self-imposed international isolation proved costly as China’s relations with the West and many of its neighbors deteriorated during the pandemic. Tensions have risen over its close partnership with Russia despite the origins of the coronavirus, trade, territorial claims, Beijing’s human rights record and the devastating war in Ukraine.
“Given the vast amount of international heads of state who wished to have a face-to-face with Xi Jinping, I think it is safe to say that (the visit) has been a success on Xi’s part,” Wen-ti Sung, a Political scientist with the Taiwan Studies Program of the Australian National University.
With broad smiles and handshakes, the Chinese leader exchanged views with his counterparts from the US, Australia, France, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines and Papua New Guinea – including those whose governments openly criticized Beijing.
And in several speeches, Xi, who earlier this year joined Russian President Vladimir Putin in announcing plans to build a “new world order”, has now sought to present himself as a leader calling for international unity. Tried to Taking a veiled dig at the US, he called for “ideological divisions,” “block politics,” “Cold War mentality,” and the “politicization and weaponization of economic and trade relations.”
Over the two summits, Xi held a total of 20 bilateral meetings in a program that sometimes lasted late into the night. He also made a point of holding most of the meetings at his hotel.
The optics speak for themselves.
“All the leaders waited patiently in line to meet the ’emperor’ of China,” said Jean-Pierre Cabestan, professor of political science at Hong Kong Baptist University.
But despite the apparent outreach, Xi also showed he was prepared to confront perceived insults.
In a rare, candid moment caught on camera, Xi accused Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of leaking details of a brief conversation between them. As they parted ways, Xi could be heard off camera describing Trudeau as “too gullible”.
Cabestan said, “It reminded the whole world that this smiling diplomacy has limits – as soon as you cross China’s interests, you can get into trouble.”
China’s Xi confronts Canadian PM in hot mic moment
For Xi, the diplomatic flurry with Western leaders is an important first step toward normalizing relations – which had been severely strained by his assertive foreign policy and the “wolf-warrior” diplomacy of Chinese diplomats.
Despite its often aggressive stance, Beijing continues to worry about economic isolation from the West. The poor state of the Chinese economy – thanks to the zero-Covid lockdown and the recent US ban on exports of advanced semiconductor chips to China – has added to Beijing’s readiness to reverse the trend.
Notably, among the leaders Xi met in Bali was Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands, home to semiconductor giant ASML – which is under increasing pressure from the US to stop selling its products to China.
During their meeting, Xi urged Rutte to avoid “detachment” and “politicization of economic and trade issues” and invited him to visit Beijing next year.
Sung said, “While Biden is trying to forge a so-called value-based alignment against China, Xi is trying to find ways to undermine the cohesion of that alignment by pursuing top-level diplomacy with those countries.” ” Scientist.
Xi’s numerous meetings with US allies are all the more notable given recent tensions with Beijing over trade, geopolitics and China’s human rights violations over Xinjiang and Hong Kong. In other multilateral settings, such as the Group of Seven summit, Western countries issued strongly worded statements expressing concern about China’s human rights record and peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.
“Amidst all this, Xi has proved that China still has enough charm and stature to attract all these countries to find ways to work with China. So in that sense it is successful diplomacy from Xi’s side.
International Asanas is also intended for Chinese domestic audiences.
For Xi, the key message he wanted to send home was already set early in the trip, when he met Biden face-to-face for the first time as national leaders.
Sung said, “The fact that Xi was talking with Biden face-to-face, with confidence and a smile, creates an image that the era of ‘G2’ has arrived.”
Since coming to power, Xi has touted the “Chinese dream” of national rejuvenation – his vision of restoring China to its past glory and reclaiming its rightful place as a world leader. In recent years, he has also advanced the notion that the East is rising and the West is in decline.
Biden told what he discussed with Xi Jinping in G-20 meeting
For Xi’s domestic audience, the image of a superpower “G2” – China and the United States – served as a vivid visual representation of both narratives. Sung said, “China can now talk to the US like a true counterpart.”
But Chinese people who followed the glossy state media coverage of Xi’s visit would also have seen a striking image: their top leader attending indoor gatherings and mingling with world leaders without face masks.
It was a far cry from Xi’s caution for Covid during his first trip abroad after the pandemic. When he visited Central Asia in September, Xi wore a mask to get off his plane and left a mask-free group dinner where the leaders ate and talked around the table.
This time, Xi appeared more comfortable going maskless. He also attended a Group of 20 dinner, where he shook hands and chatted with leaders including Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
In China, however, despite the government’s recent announcement to limit its zero-Covid policy, snap lockdowns and orders for mass testing continue to plague residents.
In the southern metropolis of Guangzhou, residents rebelled against a Covid lockdown, breaking barriers and marching in the streets. In the central city of Zhengzhou, the death of a 4-month-old girl in hotel quarantine has sparked nationwide outrage – the second child death this month under Covid restrictions.
After experiencing living with Covid in Bali and Bangkok, Xi returned to China on Saturday amid rising infections and tighter restrictions in several cities.
Besides the Dutch prime minister, Xi also invited US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, French President Emmanuel Macron and newly elected Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni to visit Beijing early next year.
Whether they will visit China free of Covid restrictions – and possible travel quarantine – remains to be seen.