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China Geopolitical Watch – From November 12 to November 18, 2022

Watch contributors: Thomas Taochy, Ines Eugène, Anna Balawender (coordinator)

11/14/2022 : China and the US meet at the G20. -Thomas Taochy-

US President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping met at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit on November 14. According to the media SCMP, the exchange between the two presidents lasted 3 hours during which it was decided that the US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken will pay an official visit to China later.

Joe Biden declared that the visit will allow “to follow up on our discussions and to continue to keep the lines of communication open between our two countries”. Other key issues discussed included Taiwan, where Xi Jinping said that Taiwan was “the very first red line”. The Chinese Foreign Ministry website reports on this theme: “We hope to see peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait […] but cross-strait peace and stability and ‘Taiwan independence’ are as irreconcilable as water and fire. We hope that the United States will put its money where its mouth is and respect the One China policy […]”.

However, one cannot speak of a new Sino-American friendship. Firstly, there can only be «one world order» to quote French President Emmanuel Macron developing his desire to see more stability in the Asia-Pacific region. On the other hand, the Foreign Policy website elaborates on the US intention not to give up its positions on Taiwan, which will then create friction with China.

11/15/2022: Sign of Sino-Australian relations thaw at G20 -Anna Balawender-

On November 15, Chinese and Australian leaders met as part of the G20 summit in Bali. According to the South China Morning Post, during the half-hour meeting, Xi Jinping told the Australian prime minister that there is no “fundamental conflict of interest” between the two countries, and that China-Australia relations are “worth cherishing”.

This meeting is the first formal exchange between the two heads of state in six years: contacts have been cold since Canberra banned Chinese donations to Australian political parties in 2017, Beijing responded by abruptly stopping its imports of several Australian products including barley, wine, beef, but also iron ore and coal, which the Chinese economy is very demanding of.

Asked several times about a potential lifting of trade restrictions imposed by Beijing, Prime Minister Albanese said that he had “clearly” raised this issue of tension, but that the discussion was not about trade issues. He added, however, that the meeting represents “another important step towards the stabilisation of the Australia-China relationship”.

Efforts to normalize relations between Beijing and Canberra began in May 2022, when the Chinese government congratulated Albanese on his election as head of the Australian parliament. According to The Guardian, Australian Trade Minister Don Farrell announced on Nov. 14 that Australia is seeking to engage directly with China to resolve the trade dispute without resorting to World Trade Organization (WTO) arbitration. But more importantly, The Diplomat notes that this beginning of a thaw coincides with Ottawa’s decision to block Chinese investment in lithium mining companies on its soil, cutting off access to Canadian lithium. While Canada is not a major producer of lithium, this decision has strong symbolic significance, and Beijing may fear that governments close to Washington will make similar decisions. As a reminder, lithium is a crucial component in the field of high technology, and in particular for producing batteries for electric cars, a product at the heart of China’s future strategy.

11/16/2022:  Head of European diplomacy, the Franco-German couple, asks China for a firm stance against the war in Ukraine

Anticipating a winter military de-escalation in Ukraine, Macron wants to anticipate a return to large-scale ground fighting in February that could undermine the Ukrainian army’s recent victories. With this in mind, the French president publicly declared at the G20 on Wednesday, November 16, his wish to see China “play a more important mediation role” in the Russo-Ukrainian conflict. An aspiration reiterated during an exchange with his counterpart Xi Jinping on a possible visit to China, which would be the first since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. Although criticized by the West for its complacency towards Russia, China had spoken out at the UN for a “peaceful resolution of the Ukrainian crisis” and called for calm after the incident of the missile that fell on Polish territory on Tuesday.

Olaf Scholz, in the same aspiration, had obtained from Xin Jinping at the beginning of November to condemn the use of the nuclear threat by Vladimir Putin and declared at the same time that a “large country”, member of the UN Security Council as China should exert its influence on Russia to achieve a peaceful outcome of the crisis. To which Xin Jinping replied: “China supports the efforts of Germany and Europe to play an important role in promoting peace talks”, a statement of circumstance, which does not prove any willingness of the Chinese to get involved in the resolution of the conflict, nor to review its ambiguous position towards Russia. Without shaking up the political chessboard, the European Union is nonetheless tending to develop a common diplomacy towards China and the role it could play in resolving this conflict.

11/17/2022: Xi Jinping shows frustration with Canadian revelations of alleged Chinese interference -Anna Balawender-

Just before leaving Bali, where the G20 summit ended the day before, Xi Jinping and Justin Trudeau had a final exchange, during which the Chinese president openly rebuked his interlocutor for revealing the contents of a private discussion on November 15. In the excerpt filmed by reporters on the scene, Xi Jinping declares, “Everything we discussed has been leaked in the papers and that is not appropriate.” To the response of the Canadian Premier “In Canada we believe in free and open frank dialogue”, the Chinese President retorted that there was a need to “create the conditions first.”

According to Reuters, a source in Canada’s diplomatic entourage told reporters that the Prime Minister raised “serious concerns” during his meeting with Xi Jinping on November 15. He mentioned in particular the concern of “interference”, probably referring to the Canadian intelligence report published on November 7. This report denounces alleged Chinese interference in the 2019 and 2021 Canadian elections, through bribes, co-optation, and placement or recruitment of agents in Canada.

In addition to this contentious topic, according to The Globe and Mail, the two leaders also discussed the Russian invasion of Ukraine, North Korea and the importance of the climate summit taking place in Montreal in December. This meeting is the first between the two leaders in 3 years, as the Chinese-Canadian relationship are experiencing a period of freeze since the detention of Meng Wanzhou, vice chairman of the board of Huawei, in 2018.

11/17/2022 : President Xi Jinping meets Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. -Thomas Taochy-

Xi Jinping and Fumio Kishida met on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Bangkok on November 17. The two leaders vowed to foster a better relationship between their countries as Fumio Kishida met Xi Jinping for the first time.

During the meeting, which lasted 36 minutes according to the SCMP media, it was decided that Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi should go to China for an official visit. In addition to this trip, the two countries reaffirmed their joint positions on the non-use of nuclear energy during the war in Ukraine.

The meeting was also an opportunity to discuss the contentious relationship between the two countries – Chinese missiles in Japan’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) following the visit of US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan in August.

Another subject of tension was the status of the Diaoyu Islands, also known as Senkakus. On this subject, the Chinese Foreign Ministry website announced: “On issues related to maritime and territorial disputes, it is essential to respect the principles and common agreements that have been reached, and to show political wisdom and responsibility in order to properly manage differences”.

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