World leaders continue to confront Xi over Taiwan and human rights violations

Xi Jinping who has emerged more powerful after his re-election as Chinese President however continues to be questioned and criticised by the world leaders over his policies that they believe are detrimental to human rights and global peace. It can be vividly recalled from the developments of recently held G20 summit. While Xi was trying to reassert China’s global influence, he got an earful of from western heads over some controversial issues.

Xi held face-to-face meetings with some world leaders during the G20 summit that was held in Indonesia’s Bali. After three hours of talks with the American President Joe Biden, which Xi used to try to diffuse tensions, the US said it touched upon issues that impacted security of its allies such as Taiwan and South Korea. “We were very blunt with one another about places where we disagreed,” Biden said.  US raking up Taiwan did not bring good news for Xi.

The US has been batting for the independence of Taiwan, thus opposing its forceful annexation by China. While Biden after the meeting with Xi said that China would not make “any imminent attempt” to invade Taiwan, the following statement by the US government warned against Beijing’s “coercive and increasingly aggressive actions toward Taiwan.” It said Chinese military action would destabilise the region and hurt global prosperity.

The US questioned China publicly even after Xi told Biden categorically that Taiwan issue was “first red line” that was not to be crossed.  Biden also expressed concerns over human rights violations in Tibet, Xinjiang, and Hong Kong and about unfair Chinese business practices. While Xi’s spokesperson termed the bilateral meeting “candid and constructive”, the US President called it “very blunt”. Other major world powers too have shown similar attitude toward China.

During the G20 summit, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told Xi that Canada would continue to express its disagreement with China over concerning issues. Xi was expressing his displeasure over the leaks of bilateral discussions when Trudeau interrupted him and said “In Canada, we believe in free and open and frank dialogue and that is what we will continue to have.” Trudeau said Canada sought to work constructively with China but it would continue to “disagree” on some issues. The western block has been proactive in highlighting cases of human rights violations in China and Chinese military aggression in its neighbourhood.    

China is the largest trading partner of many countries including New Zealand. The rising tension in the Taiwan Strait was yet one of the important issues that was raised by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern when she met Xi on the sidelines of the Apec summit in Bangkok recently.  Ardern expressed concerns over the grim situation in Xinjiang, Hong Kong, the South China Sea, and the Taiwan. Talking about different political systems in China and New Zealand and the bilateral relations, Ardern said “They are being tested now.”

Newly elected UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak too risked his meeting with Xi in support for Taiwan’s independence. According to reports, the bilateral meeting between these two leaders – first such in fifty years– on the sidelines of G20 summit was cancelled after the UK asserted that it would provide military assistance to Taiwan against Chinese offensive. “We stand ready to support Taiwan, as we do in standing up to Chinese aggression,” Sunak said on the eve of the summit.

Earlier, Sunak said “China poses significant challenges to our values, interests, and indeed our economic security,” he told British lawmakers.  Even UK government issued a statement that took a dig at Xi’s aggressive and hegemonic rule. “China is a country with fundamentally different values to ours, with an authoritarian leadership intent on reshaping the international order,” it said. While India has refrained from targeting Xi publicly, it did hold China responsible for protecting Pakistan-based terrorists. Japan too has called out China for its expansionist attitude. Expressing concerns over Chinese aggression in Japanese territorial waters especially near Senkaku island, Japan Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said I reiterated the importance of peace and security in the Taiwan Strait. I conveyed my grave concerns about the situation in the East China Sea.”               

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