Friday, December 1, 2023

After close encounter at APEC summit, Trudeau appears to steer wide berth around Xi

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Blame the alphabet for the fact Justin Trudeau and Xi Jinping had a close encounter at this week’s APEC summit.

China and Canada routinely rub elbows when leaders gather for photos at the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation gathering.

But outside the family photo, officials took pains to point out that the two leaders shared little Thursday beyond a perfunctory hello.

Look for the prime minister to be asked during today’s closing news conference whether he plans to change that anytime soon.

U.S. President Joe Biden spent four hours with his Chinese counterpart Wednesday in an effort to ease lingering tensions.

Whether Trudeau has any plans to follow Biden’s lead remains to be seen.

“I think it’s good for the U.S. that the two presidents had their discussion. I think it’s good for the world,” said Kirsten Hillman, Canada’s ambassador to the U.S.

The two leaders agreed to resume military communications and reached a preliminary agreement on curbing the flow of fentanyl into the U.S.

Relations between the U.S. and China were tested in 2022 when then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi travelled to Taiwan.

But things turned downright frosty this past summer after a Chinese spy balloon was spotted drifting through North American airspace.

Canada-China relations haven’t exactly been warm lately either.

Beijing detained Canadian citizens Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig for nearly three years, a move widely seen as retribution for Canada’s detention of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou over the same period.

China meanwhile imposed multi-year bans on Canadian imports of meat and canola, claiming concerns about unspecified pests.

And a year after the Canadian government named China as a disruptive global force and declared Beijing as responsible for attempts at foreign interference, the Chinese government left Canada out as it loosened restrictions on group travel.

In September, Ottawa appointed a judge to lead a public inquiry into foreign interference in federal electoral processes and democratic institutions, with a mandate that singles out “China, Russia and other foreign states or nonstate actors.”

Earlier this year, Conservative MP Michael Chong testified before a congressional committee about his experiences as a target of Chinese coercion and misinformation campaigns.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 17, 2023.

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