China’s Xi’s first day at the G20 begins with a whirlwind meeting with US allies

Bali, Indonesia

After a nearly three-year absence from the world stage, Chinese leader Xi Jinping has begun a whirlwind of face-to-face meetings with Western leaders at the Group of 20 summit in Bali in a bid to reassert China’s global influence.

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

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

While hopes for a resumption of relations are low, the meetings could serve to avoid disagreements and reopen lines of communication, similar to the meeting between Xi and Biden.

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 this 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 inextricable part of their relations with Beijing.

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

In the talks, which lasted 43 minutes according to Chinese state media, Xi reiterated 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,” a readout of state-run Chinese media outlet CCTV said.

France, like other European countries, has hardened its position vis-à-vis China in recent years, seeing the country increasingly as a competitor and security concern.

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

But Xi’s most anticipated personal diplomacy on Tuesday is perhaps his meeting with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, partly because relations between Beijing and Canberra have deteriorated significantly in recent years.

The two countries have been locked in a trade dispute and diplomatic freeze since early 2020, when China imposed tariffs on Australia after it demanded an investigation into the origins of the coronavirus.

The leaders of the two countries last met when Albanese’s predecessor, Scott Morrison, held 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 held a formal bilateral meeting, then in Australia. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull sits down with Xi at the G20 in Hangzhou, China in 2016.

Announcing a meeting with Xi after arriving in Bali on Monday, Albanese said the meeting alone was a “successful outcome” and noted the absence of high-level talks in years.

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

“I hope to have a constructive discussion with President Xi tomorrow,” Albanes said.

As with the meeting between Xi and Biden, few in Australia expect the meeting between Xi and Albanese to fully restore close ties between the two countries.

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

“It may be a diplomatic reset of sorts, but not fundamentally one where both sides begin to genuinely approach each other in good faith and are willing to compromise,” Lee added.