Xi spat with Trudeau exposes China’s fractured ties with Canada

Xi spat with Trudeau exposes China’s fractured ties with Canada


Chinese President Xi Jinping scolded Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as he disguised himself on camera at the G20 summit, an unusual public spat that could further complicate strained relations between the countries.

Video taken by reporters at the Bali Leaders’ Summit on Wednesday showed Xi appeared to make accusations at Trudeau after details of talks between the two leaders leaked to the media.

Trudeau had raised with Xi on Tuesday the issue of Chinese “meddling” with Canadian citizens after Ottawa in recent weeks accused Beijing of interfering in its democratic and judicial system.

In the one-minute clip, recorded on the sidelines of the Indonesian summit, Xi Trudeau says through an interpreter: “Everything we discussed leaked to the newspapers. That is not appropriate.”

He adds: “And that’s not how (our discussion) was conducted, was it?”

China’s Foreign Ministry on Thursday tried to downplay the footage, saying it shows a “normal” conversation between the two leaders and “should not be interpreted as Xi Jinping criticizing or blaming anyone.”

“The reasons for the difficulties in China-Canada relations in recent years are very clear,” spokeswoman Mao Ning said at a regular news conference.

“The fault does not lie with the Chinese side.”

– ‘Create conditions’ –

In the footage, Xi tells Trudeau, “When there is sincerity, we can have conversations based on an attitude of mutual respect. If not, the results will be unpredictable.”

Xi then appears to try to walk past the Canadian leader, who replies, “In Canada we believe in free, open and honest dialogue and we will continue to have that.

“We will continue to try to work together constructively, but there will be things that we don’t agree on.”

Xi raises his hands and interrupts him, saying, “Create the conditions. Create the conditions.”

He then spreads his smile and barely looks at Trudeau as he shakes his hand and leaves his counterpart to leave the room.

It is not clear when, if ever, Xi will learn the conversation will be filmed.

The Foreign Ministry spokeswoman denied that Xi’s words “if not” amounted to a threat, saying “both sides are expressing their respective positions.”

“Open dialogue is not a problem for China, but we hope it will be built on the basis of equal and mutual respect rather than condescending criticism,” she said.

– ‘Strange position’ –

It is “extremely rare” for Chinese leaders to express displeasure at such “off the cuff,” said Chong Ja Ian, associate professor of political science at the National University of Singapore.

Xi’s remarks suggest he feels “he can pressure Trudeau with little if any impact,” Chong told AFP, adding that the Chinese leader’s “high levels of confidence” suggest it could, “that he takes neither Trudeau nor Canada so seriously as an interlocutor”.

In contrast, “Xi’s body language with (US President) Biden just days earlier seemed … more heartfelt,” he said.

The Chinese leader’s tone is comparable to “a great power talking to a lesser power,” said Van Jackson, lecturer in international relations at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.

“Xi’s speech and posture were not at all unusual for government officials who are less than friendly with each other — privately,” Jackson told AFP.

Tensions between China and the United States put Canada in a “particularly awkward position,” he said, adding that Ottawa’s “embedment in the network of intelligence-sharing Anglo-Saxon democracies all but ensures that it will withstand China’s wrath over time.” will attract more and more will pass”.

Xi’s meeting with Trudeau on Tuesday marked the first face-to-face dialogue between the two leaders since 2019.

It comes after the Chinese leader broke a longstanding political precedent last month to seek a third term and stack top government positions with his personal allies.

Canada’s federal police said last week they were investigating so-called police stations set up illegally by Beijing in the North American country.

Trudeau also said last week China was playing “aggressive games” after Canadian broadcaster Global News reported on a “clandestine network” of federal election candidates funded by Beijing.

Relations between the two countries faltered when Canadian authorities arrested Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in 2018 for allegedly flouting US sanctions on Iran.

Beijing later arrested two Canadian nationals in China, Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, in what critics called a rebellion.

Meng and the two Canadians were released last year after lengthy negotiations.

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