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Why Xi Jinping publicly rebuked Justin Trudeau, and what it means for Canada’s relations with China

Posted in Featured, International

Published on November 17, 2022 with No Comments

Chinese president expressed displeasure with prime minister leaking their G20 conversation to media
Xi Jinping’s threatening rebuke of Justin Trudeau was a rare and surprising move by the Chinese president, and highlighted the disregard he has for the Canadian prime minister, according to some experts and former diplomats.

“He certainly wouldn’t speak like that to the U.S. president. So it does suggest that Mr. Xi has a degree of disdain for the prime minister and does not see Canada as an important partner,” said Charles Burton, senior fellow with the Macdonald-Laurier Institute and a former diplomat to China.

Burton said he found the language used by Xi during his interaction with Trudeau at the G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, to be “quite dismissive and threatening,” indicating that any illusions the government has that China respects Canada as an influential nation in the world have long since disappeared.

Xi’s remarks ‘highly offensive’
“I just think in general, it was very unpleasant. I found it highly offensive on the part of his intent,” Burton said.

“We have not seen the president of China engaging in this really quite undiplomatic, rough language with a counterpart leader of another country”
Through an interpreter, Xi accused Trudeau of inappropriately leaking the content of their discussion, and also claimed that what was reported in the media was not an accurate reflection of their conversation.

Trudeau interrupted the Chinese leader, saying Canada believes in “free and open and frank dialogue,” and that while they have disagreements, they should work together.

Xi wanted exchange to be seen, expert says
However, Xi’s translator didn’t translate everything the president said.

According to a translation by The Canadian Press, Xi also told Trudeau that “we should have conversations in a respectful way, otherwise, the result can’t be predicted.”

After the exchange, the pair shook hands and parted ways.

During his closing media conference, Trudeau responded to the incident, saying that his government trusts its citizens want to be apprised of the work that he is doing on their behalf.

“I won’t shy away from being open with Canadians, even as we discuss important and sometimes delicate subjects,” the prime minister said.

Lynette Ong, a professor of political science at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, said that Xi is someone who usually minces his words and is very careful about what he says in public.

She said Xi knew his rebuke would be captured by the media, which means he wanted this “dressing down” to be seen by domestic and international audiences.
Guy Saint-Jacques, who was Canada’s ambassador to China from 2012 to 2016, said that this was all “preordained,” and that Xi wanted to pass along a clear message to Trudeau as the cameras were rolling.

“I would agree that this was a veiled threat, and I find this whole episode very surprising because it’s very rare that Xi Jinping would engage in this type of behaviour,” Saint-Jacques told Power & Politics host David Cochrane.

Xi’s purpose was to make Trudeau lose face publicly at home and around the world, Saint-Jacques said, noting the confrontation shows the disregard the Chinese president has for the prime minister.


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