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US President Joe Biden attended the 2022 ASEAN summit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Photo: Reuters

Global Impact: Southeast Asia takes centre stage with Asean, G20 and Apec summits as Xi Jinping plays ‘diplomatic catch-up’

  • Global Impact is a fortnightly curated newsletter featuring a news topic originating in China with a significant macro impact for our newsreaders around the world
  • In this edition, we wrap up all the comings and goings from a series of high-profile meetings in Cambodia, Indonesia and Thailand
Southeast Asia was the centre of diplomatic attention this month as world leaders converged for a flurry of high-profile summits, kicking off with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) meeting in Cambodia on November 10.
It was followed closely by the Group of 20 (G20) and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summits in Bali and Bangkok, respectively.

Unsurprisingly, while the main aims of the forums were to deepen economic cooperation as economies reel from the impacts of the coronavirus, pressing global issues ranging from Russia’s war in Ukraine and the heightened rivalry between the United States and China took centre stage.


China’s Xi rebukes Trudeau at G20, chides Canadian leader for ‘leaking’ meeting details

China’s Xi rebukes Trudeau at G20, chides Canadian leader for ‘leaking’ meeting details
Much attention has been paid to the first in-person meeting between US President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, as heads of state. Analysts said their meeting gave both sides a chance to clarify their red lines and offered some optimism as they showed desire to turn the temperature down after tensions escalated in recent months.

One key result was that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will make his first trip to China early next year, chiefly to strengthen lines of communication between Washington and Beijing.

But the sit-down did not spell an end to the US-China rivalry. At the Apec summit in Bangkok, both Xi and US Vice-President Kamala Harris impassionately pitched their ambitious visions of the Indo-Pacific to leaders as they vie for greater influence in the region.

Amid growing concerns over Washington’s commitment to Asia, Harris made it clear that the US was “here to stay”. “The US has an enduring economic commitment to the Indo-Pacific; one that is measured not in years but in decades and generations,” she said.

The Chinese president, meanwhile, forged stronger ties with countries on his week-long Southeast Asia tour – his first overseas visit in his third-term. Notably, he met with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, Australia’s Anthony Albanese, and South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol.
The back-to-back meetings were seen as Xi playing “diplomatic catch-up” after being largely absent from the world stage due to the pandemic, said Dylan Loh, an assistant professor in foreign policy at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.


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US-Philippine visit reaffirms defence ties, as protesters rally against American militarism
Russia sent its top diplomat Sergey Lavrov to the G20 summit, where he accused the West of having an “obsession” with Ukraine by making the war a key talking point of all diplomatic forums. “They were quite aggressive, accusing Russia of, as they put it, unprovoked aggression against Ukraine,” he said of Western nations.

At the Asean summit in Phnom Penh, the crisis in Myanmar was one item on the agenda that was closely watched, as impatience grows among some countries in the 10-member Asean bloc given the lack of progress of an earlier peace plan struck with Myanmar’s military leaders.

While analysts expected more from the bloc, member states agreed at the end of the summit to hold Myanmar to a “specific timeline” for making progress on the peace plan, known as the five-point consensus. The in-principle approval for East Timor to become the bloc’s 11th member, while cheered in Dili, has raised concerns that the group’s existing divisions could be further entrenched.

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Deep Dives

Photo: EPA-EFE

What Xi Jinping’s ‘unscripted’ moments at G20, Apec reveal about future of diplomacy

  • Chinese president’s warmth and candour make strong impression during overseas trip, but Beijing’s foreign policy hasn’t changed
  • Face-to-face meetings to play crucial role in China’s post-pandemic international relations, observers say

President Xi Jinping’s unscripted moments during the summits in Southeast Asia last week offered rare insights into the country’s most powerful leader in decades and reassurances about his post-pandemic diplomacy.

In contrast to his hardline approach at the Communist Party’s national congress last month, where he clinched an unprecedented third term, Xi appeared cordial and cooperative at the Group of 20 summit in Bali and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) forum in Bangkok last week.
Photo: Xinhua

Xi-Albanese meeting signals thaw in China-Australia ties, but experts say tensions remain

  • Trade at top of Australian PM’s agenda in first formal talks between leaders in six years
  • Chinese president says 50-year-old relationship needs ‘to be cherished by both sides’
Last week’s meeting between President Xi Jinping and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese in Bali may signal a thaw in bilateral ties but experts say there will be no second honeymoon in the relationship because Canberra will continue to support US efforts, a position Beijing views as containment.
After a long diplomatic freeze, Xi and Albanese met on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Indonesia in the first formal meeting between the leaders of the long-time trade partners in six years.
Photo: ZUMA Press Wire/dpa

Xi-Biden talks: Taiwan is still the big red line in China-US relations

  • Both leaders used their discussions to stake out their positions on the self-ruled island
  • The tensions remain and there are potential flashpoints ahead, analysts say
Deep divisions and major risks remain over Taiwan, despite long-awaited face-to-face talks between the presidents of China and the United States, analysts said.

The two leaders met for more than three hours of talks on the sidelines of the G20 in Bali on Monday, with Xi Jinping telling Joe Biden that Taiwan was “the first red line” that could not be crossed in the China-US relationship.

Photo: AP

Don’t weaponise food, energy security, China’s Xi Jinping’s tells G20

  • Xi says source of world’s current crisis is a ‘supply chain problem’
  • Chinese president calls for the reversal of ‘tech-related sanctions’, asks wealthy nations to contain fallout from interest rate hikes

Chinese President Xi Jinping blamed the world’s food and energy crisis on politicisation and “disturbance on cooperation” as he faced calls from other Group of 20 nations to help stop Russia’s war in Ukraine.

In his opening remarks to the G20 summit in Indonesia’s resort island of Bali on Tuesday, Xi said food and energy security was the “most pressing challenge” the world faced today, and called for the reversal of “tech-related sanctions” to solve problems.

Photo: Reuters

East Timor in Asean may entrench divisions, make ‘picking off, co-opting by big powers’ more likely

  • The tiny nation, which gets a lot of help from Australia and China, is set to become the 11th member of the Southeast Asian bloc
  • Analysts say it joining may make existing group tensions worse, amid China-US rivalry in region and the competition for ‘hearts and minds’
East Timor’s impending entry into the Association of Southeast Asian Nations could yet rock the bloc’s boat and exacerbate strategic tensions faced by the regional body.
Existing divisions between the more and less developed economies in Asean may well become further entrenched, experts say.
Photo: Reuters

As US and China vie for Asia-Pacific sway, France warns against divided world

  • US Vice-President Kamala Harris and Chinese President Xi Jinping reiterate Asia-Pacific commitments as leaders gather for the Apec summit
  • US-China power struggle poses ‘a big challenge’, French President Emmanuel Macron says, as he warns against having to pick sides
The United States and China promoted their ambitious plans for the Indo-Pacific at an Apec business forum, even as other leaders warned of the dangers of splitting the globe into two blocs.
US Vice-President Kamala Harris on Friday underscored Washington’s “enduring” long-term plan for the region, amid growing uncertainty among governments and businesses over its lack of commitment to Asia.
Photo: EPA-EFE

Peng Liyuan joins diplomatic whirl in first overseas trip since coronavirus pandemic began

  • Peng accompanied her husband, President Xi Jinping, to Indonesia and Thailand for last week’s G20 and Apec summits
  • She attended events held alongside those meetings in what was seen as an effort to show a more friendly side of China
Peng Liyuan, the wife of Chinese President Xi Jinping, has returned to the diplomatic stage after a three-year absence, with poverty alleviation and environmental protection on her agenda.
As Xi engaged in a flurry of diplomacy at last week’s Group of 20 summit in Bali and the Apec meeting in Bangkok, Peng – a soprano and famous folk singer – attended events held alongside those gatherings.

Global Impact is a fortnightly curated newsletter featuring a news topic originating in China with a significant macro impact for our newsreaders around the world.

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