Fresh from securing a historic third term as China’s top leader, President Xi Jinping is poised for a triumphant re-entry to the world stage at a pivotal G20 summit next week.
After almost three years of self-imposed pandemic isolation where international diplomacy was largely conducted via videolink, China now aims to shore up its global alliances — especially with developing countries — in the face of increased competition with the United States and a world environment destabilised by the Ukraine war.
A flurry of state visits to China in the past week have highlighted the importance of maintaining trade and other diplomatic ties — even as China acts more assertively to defend its interests.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz defied fierce domestic criticism to visit Beijing on Friday with a business delegation in tow, vowing to deepen trade cooperation with China alongside raising contentious issues such as the Ukraine war.
His visit caps off a string of trips by the leaders of Pakistan, Tanzania and the Vietnamese Communist Party — the most numerous face-to-face meetings Xi has conducted since hosting more than a dozen world leaders at February’s Beijing Olympics.
France’s foreign minister last week said President Macron is likely to visit China in the coming months.
– ‘Exuding confidence’ –
At next week’s G20 summit in Bali, Xi will join world leaders including US President Joe Biden, top European Union official Ursula von der Leyen, and the prime ministers of Australia, India, Japan and Britain, among others.
Russian President Vladimir Putin will not be at the conference, where his country’s invasion of Ukraine in February will be one of the main talking points.
Xi’s attendance has not yet been confirmed by the Chinese foreign ministry, which normally announces his travel plans shortly before they happen, but he is widely expected to be present.
“I expect Xi Jinping to arrive at the G20 exuding confidence from the refreshed mandate he has just received from the Communist Party of China,” said Drew Thompson, visiting senior fellow at the National University of Singapore.
Biden on Wednesday appeared to confirm a meeting with Xi on the G20 sidelines, saying that he would gauge Xi’s “red lines” to reduce the potential for conflict after soaring tensions on Taiwan.
Experts are not expecting any breakthroughs on resolving long-term differences, however.
“The political differences between the US and China are deep-seated… A meeting on the margins of a multilateral meeting (is) not the venue to resolve such strategic differences,” said Thompson.
“There is certainly benefit to the engagement, such as better understanding what each side expects from the other, which can hopefully reduce misunderstanding and prevent miscalculation.”
Foreign Minister Wang Yi held his first in-person meeting with US ambassador to China Nicholas Burns last month, after having snubbed him since his arrival in March.
Since November, Wang has also held phone calls with his Australian, Singaporean and French counterparts, suggesting Xi could be holding more high-level bilateral meetings at the G20.
– Rising US tensions –
The US-China relationship further deteriorated this year over Taiwan, a UN human rights report on Xinjiang and US semiconductor export restrictions that aim to curb China’s fledgling chip industry.
At last month’s Communist Party congress, Xi warned of a challenging geopolitical climate without mentioning the US by name, as he wove a narrative of China’s “inevitable” triumph over adversity in a key speech.
“This vision calls for decoupling economic modernity from Western political and social norms and underlying cultural beliefs,” wrote former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd in Foreign Affairs magazine.
“It offers a new international order anchored in Chinese rather than US geopolitical power.”
Beijing is also not losing sight of its regional backyard, having sent Premier Li Keqiang on a “swan song” visit to Cambodia this week for multiple ASEAN forums.
Xi is also expected to attend the APEC summit in Bangkok shortly after the G20, the Thai foreign minister said last week. Japanese media have also reported a likely meeting between Xi and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida either at the G20 or APEC.
His packed itinerary will not stop there.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Xi is likely to make a state visit to Saudi Arabia to shore up oil-dependent economic ties, with energy security a pressing focus during the Ukraine war.
Biden seeks to gauge US, China ‘red lines’ with Xi
Washington (AFP) Nov 9, 2022 –
US President Joe Biden said Wednesday he would ask Chinese President Xi Jinping about his “red lines” to reduce the potential for conflict after soaring tensions on Taiwan when they gather next week in Bali.
A day before flying to Asia, Biden indirectly confirmed plans to meet Xi on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in what would be their first encounter since they became presidents of the world’s two largest economies.
“What I want to do with him when we talk is lay out what kind of — what each of our red lines are,” Biden told a news conference following US midterm elections.
Biden said he sought to know “what he believes to be in the critical national interests of China, what I know to be the critical interests of the United States, and to determine whether or not they conflict with one another.”
If there are conflicts, Biden said he hoped to work together on “how to work it out.”
Biden and Xi have spoken virtually as presidents but have not met in person, with the Chinese leader until recently putting off international travel due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Xi heads to the Indonesian resort island fresh from securing a historic third term from his Communist Party, while Biden is flying out following a surprisingly strong showing by his Democrats in midterm elections.
The two leaders know each other unusually well for two presidents, with Biden in 2011 traveling to China to spend time with Xi when they were both vice presidents.
Eleven years later, tension has risen sharply over Taiwan with the Biden administration warning that China has stepped up its timeline to seize the self-governing democracy that it claims as part of its territory.
– Biden support on Taiwan –
Biden on three occasions has indicated that he is ready to commit the US military to defend Taiwan, a break with longstanding policy that was walked back each time by the White House.
Biden insisted Wednesday there was no change in the historic US stance of strategic ambiguity on whether Washington would use force in the event of a Chinese invasion.
“The Taiwan doctrine has not changed at all from the very beginning,” Biden said, adding that he would discuss Taiwan but also trade and China’s relationship with other countries.
US concerns about Taiwan have been thrown into stark relief by Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine, an operation that had until recently been seen as a remote possibility.
Biden bluntly repeated US assessments that China has hesitated at supporting Russia materially, despite President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Beijing to meet Xi before the invasion.
“I don’t think there’s a lot of respect that China has for Russia or for Putin,” Biden said.
“I don’t think they look at that as a particular alliance. Matter of fact, they’ve been sort of keeping their distance a little bit.”
Biden, like his predecessor Donald Trump, has identified China as the premier global competitor of the United States and promised to reorient US policy around the challenge.
But the Biden administration has also promised to work with China on common interests such as climate change.
US climate envoy John Kerry briefly met his Chinese counterpart Xie Zhenhua at the COP27 climate summit in Egypt, marking a further thaw in tensions.
China said it would suspend climate dialogue, a key focus of Biden, in anger after an August visit to Taiwan by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat who is second in line to the presidency.
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Swedish PM tries to win Turkey over on its NATO membership
Istanbul (AFP) Nov 8, 2022
Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson was due to meet President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara on Tuesday in a top-level bid to persuade Turkey to drop its opposition to Sweden joining NATO.
After Russia invaded Ukraine, Sweden and Finland abandoned their long-standing policy of military non-alignment and in May applied to join the transatlantic alliance.
But Turkey has stalled ratification of their bids – which require unanimous approval from NATO’s 30 members – accusing the Nordic nations, … read more