Xi Jinping angrily berated Justin Trudeau after Canadian officials shared details of a previous meeting, underscoring the frosty relationship between the two leaders.
In a clip recorded by the media pool during the G20 summit in Indonesia, a visibly frustrated Xi takes the Canadian Prime Minister aside and says it was “not appropriate” for details of a previous conversation between the two leaders were split with the media, suggesting that Trudeau lacked “sincerity” in his approach.
“Everything we discuss has been leaked in the newspaper, it’s not appropriate,” Xi told Trudeau through a translator. “And that’s not how the conversation was conducted,” he added.
The testy exchange came a day after government sources informed that in an earlier conversation on the sidelines of the summit, Trudeau had raised ‘serious concerns’ with Xi over increasingly aggressive ‘interference activities’. from China.
Xi’s irritation on Wednesday was a rare break from his normally carefully scripted public appearances.
“In Canada, we believe in free, open and frank dialogue and that’s what we will continue to have,” Trudeau said, interrupting Xi’s translator. “We will continue to seek to work together constructively, but there will be things we disagree on.”
Gesturing with his hands, Xi told Trudeau the two had to “create the conditions first.” The couple ended their conversation by shaking hands and walking off in opposite directions, with the Canadian Prime Minister looking chastised for the encounter.
The uncomfortable exchange – and the earlier conversation – followed repeated warnings from Trudeau and other officials that China had tried to undermine Canadian democracy. Canadian intelligence officials informed lawmakers in January that they believed China interfered in the 2019 federal election, and media reported earlier this month that Beijing had funded a clandestine network of candidates. On Monday, Canadian police accused a researcher at the Quebec power company of espionage for allegedly sending trade secrets to China.
After the first conversation, Trudeau’s team said he and Xi also discussed the Russian invasion of Ukraine, North Korea and the significance of the Cop15 biodiversity conference in December, where China and Canada will co-host nations with the aim of “protecting nature and fighting climate change,” the source said.
Stephanie Carvin, a professor of international relations at Carleton University in Ottawa, said Xi probably didn’t understand how news of his meeting with Trudeau leaked to Canadian media and took a more confrontational approach in order to “save the face” the next time he spotted the Canadian Prime Minister.
“At the end of the day, Canada is not Europe or the United States and Xi knows he can take a more aggressive stance publicly. Moreover, he can use Canada as an example for other states without too many consequences,” she said.
With relations still strained between the two countries, Trudeau was barred from any official meeting with Xi – a diplomatic snub for the prime minister. The Chinese leader made time in Bali to meet US President Joe Biden in a closed-door meeting that lasted more than three and a half hours. Xi also met with French President Emmanuel Macron and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.
Speaking to reporters after the tense interaction, Trudeau said not all conversations with Chinese leaders were “going to be easy,” but added that Canada needed to be able to “engage constructively and while being there to challenge the human rights and values that matter to Canadians.