Beijing Hints at Hardline Stance for Upcoming Trump–Xi G-20 Meeting

June 24, 2019 Updated: June 25, 2019

On the eve of U.S. President Donald Trump’s meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping at the G-20 Summit later this week, Beijing recently signaled how it would approach trade discussions, as well as the increased international scrutiny of the situation in Hong Kong following mass protests against an extradition bill.

Economies around the world are hoping that the Trump–Xi meeting will yield a resolution to the U.S.–China trade dispute, after recent tensions due to tit-for-tat tariff increases and export bans on Chinese and U.S. companies.

Days before the meeting, a Chinese state-run think tank published a blue book, in which it claimed China would become the world’s next dominant economic superpower.

G-20 Summit

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs organized a press conference on June 24 to introduce Xi’s itinerary for the G-20 Summit.

The Group of 20 (G-20) member nations, which includes the European Union and 19 other major economies, convene at an annual summit to discuss international economic cooperation. This year’s meeting will be held on June 28 and 29 in Osaka, Japan.

Xi will fly to Osaka on June 27 to hold a bilateral meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Xi will meet with Trump during the summit, then fly back to Beijing on June 29.

Zhang Jun, China’s assistant minister of foreign affairs, said at the press conference that Beijing isn’t interested in discussing the ongoing protests in Hong Kong. “One thing that is confirmed is, the G-20 will not discuss the Hong Kong issue. We won’t allow the G-20 to discuss Hong Kong affairs … [which] is purely China’s internal issue. No matter where the occasion is and or by what means, we won’t allow any country or individual to interfere.”

The Hong Kong government’s proposed amendments to its extradition laws would allow any country, including mainland China, to seek extradition of criminal suspects.

The bill has drawn broad opposition within Hong Kong, with many fearing that, given China’s disregard for the rule of law, the proposal could allow the Chinese regime to charge with impunity, while further eroding the city’s freedoms and autonomy that were supposed to be guaranteed when the territory was handed to China from British rule in 1997.

After mass protests and international outcry about how Hong Kong police used violent tactics to disperse crowds, the city’s leader announced that the bill would be suspended indefinitely. But Hongkongers are not satisfied and seek a full withdrawal.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had said in a recent interview with “Fox News Sunday” that Trump would bring up the Hong Kong protests with Xi. “I’m sure this will be among the issues that they discuss,” he said.

But the Chinese side made it clear that it would not want to listen.

Blue Book

Meanwhile, the China Institute of International Studies (CIIS), a think tank under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, published a “Blue Book on the International Situation and China’s Foreign Affairs” on June 20.

The blue book is released annually and represents Beijing’s official opinion.

The CIIS hinted at the disruptive impact of the trade war: “The international situation in 2018 was full of turmoil as great powers contested each other at unprecedentedly fierce levels … The world is on the edge of becoming out of order.”

It suggested that the United States’ influence was waning. “In general, the world keeps the pattern of one superpower along with many strong countries. But the superpower is now weakening and the strong ones are obviously differentiating themselves.”

The blue book concluded that the global power dynamic will become “the East rises while the West falls,” and that the next technological revolution will be more advantageous to “non-Western” nations.

It ended by pointing fingers at the United States, in line with recent state propaganda that has blamed the United States for failing to reach a trade agreement. “In this environment, the United States adjusted its strategy first and sought to change the international order … in order to maintain its dominant position.”

U.S.-based China affairs commentator Tang Jingyuan predicted that this kind of strong rhetoric laying bare Beijing’s ambitions is likely to be repeated by Xi at the G-20 Summit.

“China’s foreign ministry published the blue book via its think tank just before the G-20, which means that it’s highly possible that Xi will deliver the same content during the summit,” Tang told The Epoch Times on June 24.

He explained that Beijing had two purposes for this hard-line approach: “Internally, the Chinese regime needs this book to fool Chinese people and let them believe that the communist regime is great. By which, it can stabilize its ruling. Externally, the Chinese regime wants to portray itself as a top decision-maker, and weaken the influence of the United States.”

Tang added that Xi sought to bolster the Chinese regime’s influence at G-20 after making trips to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and visiting Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

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