By Husnain Muhammad, BA International Relations and History
President Joe Biden and President Xi Jinping formally met during the G20 summit, discussing various topics from global food security to nuclear weapons. However, both the White House and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China tell different stories about what was being said in these discussions and the overall tone between both parties.
For instance, a clear and powerful example of this is the American and Chinese government’s accounts of the discussion regarding the war in Ukraine. Furthermore, the White House explicitly states that it is ‘Russia’s brutal war against Ukraine,’ and that the Russian government was giving ‘irresponsible threats of nuclear use,’ to the West. The White House also adds that China agrees that the use of nuclear weapons should not be threatened. On the contrary, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (FMPRC) doesn’t mention nuclear weapons, rather having a more neutral tone, where they claim they understand that fighting a war is futile, but they state China is willing ‘to encourage peace talks.’ This isn’t an argument that Russia is not brutally invading Ukraine, but rather that both powers are reporting different things about a singular meeting.
Another example of this would be when the report states how the United States will ‘compete vigorously with the PRC,’ while the FMPRC states that ‘the world is big enough for the two countries to develop themselves and prosper together.’ With the previous U.S. government initiating a trade war with China, it seems that the White House is conveying that the United States still has a competitive and indefatigable spirit to compete with China, regardless of the risk of war between the two.
Additionally, both the White House and FMPRC have different opinions on the discussion of human rights. While it is reported by the White House that Joe Biden was concerned with the Chinese government’s ‘practices in Xinjiang, Tibet, and Hong Kong,’ and its aggression against Taiwan, the FMPRC seems to mostly avoid the issue of human rights violations within their borders. However, it is very defensive over the situation in Taiwan. They still insist that it is an internal matter.
Overall, it has been apparent that both sides have used this meeting as a tool of discursive power to emphasise the interests and views of each respective state. Whether that is the United States’ condemnation of Russia or China’s perspective on the ‘Taiwan Question’. Perhaps the meeting’s purpose was not to solve anything but to make their stances firmer.
Photo Caption: President Joe Biden and President Xi Jinping meet in Bali (Credit: Getty Images).