Part 2: The Xi-Biden Factor
INTERNATIONAL mainstream media coverage of the historic November 14, 2022 bilateral summit between the China and US Presidents ahead of the G-20 meeting in Bali was quite different from what the Chinese press reported back home, each side offering very different perspectives of the same event.
The Xi-Biden power-parley took place alongside the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Cambodia and the G-20 meeting in Bali — and while the CoP 27 Summit was also taking place in Egypt.
Almost everything reported by the global TV broadcasters about the Xi-Biden summit was based on speculation about whether Biden could “influence China to influence Russia” in Ukraine, “when Beijing will drop its harmful Zero COVID policy,” whether “an emboldened Xi” would “budge or blink on Taiwan,” or whether “the friendship between the two leaders” would allow them to better and quicker iron out old and new global problems.
On the other hand, the Chinese media in Bali were less saucy in their coverage as they stressed informing 1.3 billion Chinese of exactly what their President said, instead of seasoned and salted versions based more on wishes than what was actually said.
For example, China Daily correspondent Xu Wei, in Bali, reported that President Xi “underlined the joint responsibility” between him and President Biden “in anchoring the future direction of bilateral relations and bringing ties on an upward track.”
Xi told Biden he looked forward “to working together with you, in bringing China-US relations back to a track of healthy and stable development, ushering more benefits to our two nations and the world.”
The China leader said the current state of China-US ties “does not fit into the fundamental interests of the two nations and their people, nor does it meet the expectations of the international community.”
He said “statesmen should think about and make clear the direction of development of their own nations, as well as ways of getting along with other nations and the world,” because of “the common expectation of the international community for Beijing and Washington to properly handle their relations.”
President Xi said he and his US counterpart “should take history as a mirror and let it guide the future” and that as leaders of two major countries, they “need to chart the right course and find the right direction for bilateral ties and elevate the relationship.”
He also noted that although he and President Biden have remained in communication via video-conferences, phone calls and letters, “none of them can really substitute face-to-face exchanges.”
President Xi said, “In this time and age, great changes are unfolding in ways like never before, as humanity is confronted with unprecedented challenges and the world has come to a crossroads.
“Where to go from here,” he added, “is a question not just on the two leaders’ minds,” but also of leaders of all countries, so, “China and the US need to work with all countries to bring more hope to world peace, greater confidence in global stability and stronger impetus to common development.”
The China leader was reported by China Daily to have had “a candid and in-depth exchange of views with his US counterpart on issues of strategic importance in China-US relations and on major global and regional issues.”
Xi also looked forward to working with President Biden, “to bring China-US relations back to the track of healthy and stable growth, to the benefit of the two countries and the whole world.”
He underlined, however, that “The Taiwan question is at the very core of China’s core interests, the bedrock of the political foundation of China-US relations — and the first red line that must not be crossed in China-US relations.”
President Xi also made it clear that “observing the basic norms of international relations and the three China-US joint communiques is the most important guardrail and safety net for China-US relations.”
“The so-called ‘Democracy versus Authoritarianism’ narrative,” he added, “is not the defining feature of today’s world and still less does it represent the trend of the times.”
President Xi told President Biden: “Freedom, Democracy and Human Rights are the common pursuit of humanity and also the unwavering pursuit of the Communist Party of China.”
He explained that, “just as the United States has American-style democracy, China has Chinese-style democracy” and “both fit their respective national conditions…”
“The whole-process people’s democracy practised in China,” he pointed out, “is based on the country’s reality, history and culture, and it reflects people’s will.”
“We take great pride in it,” President Xi said, adding that “No country has a perfect democratic system” and “there is always a need for development and improvement.”
“The specific differences between the two sides can be worked out through discussion, but only on the precondition of equality,” he added.
President Xi noted that “China and the United States are two major countries with different histories, cultures, social systems and development paths,” and that “there have been and will continue to be differences between the two countries.”
But he insisted that “such differences should not become an obstacle to growing China-US relations.”
This was reported in China through the nation’s most-read daily newspaper and its extended platforms — clear and clean reporting of what President Xi said before and during his frank exchange with his US counterpart, while the traditional international media houses concentrated on interpreting body language and reading between invisible lines to highlight possible implications of what was not said.
President Biden’s address was also reported likewise, Chinese citizens being better informed about what was actually said by both leaders by their media, than the rest of the world was offered by the international press.
For example, the New York Times headline on November 15 was: At G-20 Summit, Xi and Biden offer rival versions for solving global issues. You’d swear it was about a different meeting altogether.