Chinese President Xi Jinping attends a session during the G20 summit on the Indonesian resort island of Bali on November 16, 2022.
Willy Kurniawan | AFP | Getty Images
BEIJING — A month after consolidating power at home, Chinese President Xi Jinping has stepped out onto the world stage to strengthen relations with the United States and other countries.
In total, Xi has met with more than 25 heads of state — including US President Joe Biden — since Oct. 31, according to a tally of CNBC releases on China’s Foreign Ministry’s English-language website. Earlier in October, Xi oversaw a leadership reshuffle of the ruling Chinese Communist Party that filled top positions with his loyalists and paved the way for him to secure an unprecedented third term as president.
More recently, Xi hosted European Council President Charles Michel in Beijing on Thursday. This followed the visit of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in early November, the first Western leader to do so since the pandemic.
“This year we see [Xi] go out from his [September] SCO travel, get out more and engage more with the international community,” said Michael Cunningham, researcher, China, at the Heritage Foundation’s Center for Asian Studies. “It will be a challenge for the United States.”
Cunningham said US efforts to build coalitions abroad have been helped by Xi’s absence from the international stage for much of the past three years.
The meetings come after the Russian-Ukrainian war and Covid travel restrictions have separated Beijing and the West. Tensions around Taiwan this summer have further strained US-China relations.
“Xi is restoring his pre-pandemic level of diplomacy through bilateral meetings with many heads of state attending the G20 summit in Bali,” Eurasia Group analysts said in a November 18 report. “He met leaders of advanced industrial democracies for the first time since the start of the pandemic and amid strained relations between China and the West. Most of Xi’s meetings fueled a positive outlook for stabilizing relations .”
Xi finally met Biden in person for the first time as US president on November 14, marking a pause in the downward spiral of relations between the world’s two largest economies this year. The following week, the countries’ military leaders met for the first time since US President Nancy Pelosi’s controversial visit to Taiwan in August.
The high-stakes Xi-Biden meeting signaled to some in China that relations with the United States align more closely with vague terminology that Beijing often uses – such as ‘mutual respect’ and ‘win-win cooperation’. “.
“For China, the wording carries symbolic symbolism, i.e. equality,” said Shen Yamei, deputy director and associate researcher in the American studies department of the state-backed think tank China Institute. of International Studies. “We must manage our relations as equals, respecting each other and cooperating win-win, rather than, as the United States has said, the United States dealing with others from a position of strength. It’s not equal.”
Shen said China and the United States can work together more easily on issues of climate change, public health and macroeconomic coordination. She said that “it will be a bit difficult on issues more related to traditional security issues, such as our understanding of the Ukraine crisis and how to work [it] out.”
“The important thing is that we [keep] in mind the responsibility of a great country to the world in cooperating with each other,” she said.
Create “positive conditions” for China
The Biden administration has branded China a competitor, while strengthening US ties with other countries, particularly in the Indo-Pacific.
The leaders of Japan, South Korea, Australia, Indonesia and Italy have met with Xi and Biden in recent weeks, based on government announcements.
“Right now the political environment in China is different,” Cunningham said. Xi is “trying to get the relationship back on track so that the conditions are positive for China.”
“The way China sees it, the right path and the positive conditions, that’s where the most powerful countries in the world, the United States, Western Europe, some East Asian countries, do not actively oppose China’s rise as a global power,” he said. “That was the path we were largely on before 2018, when trade tensions between the United States and China really boiled over.”
In his speech to the Chinese Communist Party congress in October, Xi said the Party had “safeguarded China’s dignity” in the face of international changes and warned of “dangerous storms” to come.
Just before this political meeting, Xi made his first trip outside the country since the pandemic, to Uzbekistan for a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a Eurasian intergovernmental group. While there, he met Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, among other country leaders.