Joe Biden and Xi Jinping have come face-to-face in Bali, Indonesia on the sidelines of the G20 Summit
Chinese President Xi Jinping has made his second international trip since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The virus has killed over 5,000 people in China, and 6.6 million around the world.
Beijing maintains a Covid-zero strategy, which has been criticised by Human Rights Watch as “draconian”.
But for one of the world’s biggest superpowers, the so-called ‘democracy versus authoritarianism’ narrative is one Beijing is attempting to stamp out.
This was President Xi’s first face-to-face meeting since his U.S. counterpart, Joe Biden took office nearly two years ago.
As Xi touched down in Bali, Indonesia for the G20 Summit, a range of bilateral talks had already been arranged.
His meeting with President Biden was high on the agenda, and signals a dialogue, which the U.S. was denied with Russian President Vladimir Putin, after he withdrew his personal invitation to the event.
Instead, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is in attendance.
At China-U.S. meeting, which is understood to have lasted three-and-a-half hours, there was no secret about the ongoing rivalry between the two states.
“We need to find the right direction for the bilateral relationship going forward and elevate the relationship,” Biden said.
Meanwhile, China’s Foreign Ministry said “President Xi pointed out that the world is at a major inflection point in history.”
President Biden sought to rally G20 nations to condemn the use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine.
Xi said he was “highly concerned” by the ongoing conflict, while Biden described the war as “brutal” and “irresponsible”.
A major point for international relations
Twenty of the world’s largest economies have gathered in Bali to exchange their shared challenges: inflation, supply chain pressures, and post-pandemic recovery.
It also provides the space for countries to hold face-to-face meetings on the sidelines of the event.
For example, Australia has shared a defence and security partnership with the U.S. for over 70 years.
In addition, Canberra’s era of economic engagement with Beijing was crucial during the height of the Global Financial Crisis.
Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will also come face-to-face with his Chinese counterpart during bilateral talks in Bali.
Meanwhile, his Minister of Defence Richard Marles was speaking in Sydney as President Xi held closed-door talks with Biden.
“Australia values a productive relationship with China. And we expect China will play a more prominent role consistent with its economic and strategic weight,” Marles told delegates at the Sydney Institute Annual Dinner on Monday night.
Marles described Australia’s approach to the Indo-Pacific region as “sober, responsible, and clear-eyed statecraft”.
The ANZUS Alliance—between Australia, New Zealand and the U.S.—has been the cornerstone of Canberra’s defence policy.
Today, the alliance provides technology, and intelligence advantages, which Australia would be challenged to develop on its own.
“That enhances Australia’s sovereignty. It does not diminish it,” Marles said.
However, China’s increased dominance in the region has raised eyebrows between likeminded allies like the U.S. and Australia.
China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said competition can exist, and Washington should not seek to out=perform Beijing.
“China-U.S. relations should not be a zero-sum game where one side out-competes or thrives at the expense of the other,” the ministry said.
Why does this matter?
Biden and Xi made it clear they want to avoid any conflict, for now.
The White House readout from the meeting noted Biden raised “objections to the PRC’s coercive and increasingly aggressive actions toward Taiwan”.
The language was clear: the ongoing tensions “undermine peace and stability” and “jeopardise global prosperity”.
President Biden also raised concerns around human rights abuses and non-market economic practices in relation to U.S. workers.
But President Xi reminded his U.S. counterpart about the global clash between democracies and autocracies, and concerns about Beijing being misunderstood through this lens.
“Instead of talking in one way and acting in another, the United States needs to honour its commitments with concrete action,” China’s Foreign Ministry said.
Washington’s foreign policy changed dramatically since President Richard Nixon’s initial engagement with Beijing.
Since then, China has developed the world’s largest navy, and has entered into the big league of world powers.
The question remains: will tensions reach boiling point?
Trump’s campaign debut was panned – but don’t underestimate his chances
Last weekend, Donald Trump held two events in New Hampshire and South Carolina, his first official forays onto the 2024 presidential battlefield.
The experts panned it.
A lot of the political class is talking about Trump in the past tense, and not the future, briefing out to the media that his rambling, Fidel Castro-like monologues bore his audiences silly, that his obsessions and battles with his political enemies do not have the reach they did in 2016 and during his term in office, that he is immersing himself more deeply in extremist QAnon cult waters, that he faces indictments and trials that will derail his campaign and might even put him in jail.
And more: that Trump wallows in the “stolen” 2020 election, knowing that there was no way he could have lost since he got 12 million more votes than in 2016. Trump never concedes. Six years later, he does not acknowledge that Hillary Clinton got almost 3 million more votes than Trump in 2016 – and that he won only because she lost in the Electoral College.
The telling critique – the one driving Republicans in private to say that Trump is done (or should be done, or will be done) is that Trump is a loser.
That Trump lost Republican control of the House of Representatives in 2018, bringing back Nancy Pelosi who secured not one, but two impeachments of the president; that he lost the White House in 2020; that he lost control of the Senate in January 2021 when Democrats swept both Georgia Senate seats, giving them control of that chamber; and that Trump-backed candidates in Pennsylvania, Georgia, New Hampshire, and Arizona again cost Republicans control of the Senate in the 2022 midterms. As Vince Lombardi, legendary gridiron coach of Green Bay and Washington, said, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” Lombardi would say Trump was a loser.
Trump is having none of it, and his iron resolve was on full display for those listening more closely when he gave his orations last weekend.
“Maybe he’s lost his step,” Trump said in evoking the musings of some Republicans. But, “I’m more angry now, and I’m more committed than I ever was.”
The anger is palpable. The Trump 2023 brand joins his anger with the hottest culture war buttons he can press. Immigration, the open wound that is the southern border, the wall he will finish, the rapists and criminals who are flooding in and that he will keep out tomorrow. Immigration is his lead-off weapon.
Then promises of energy independence and oil forever. Utter hostility to electric vehicles and wind energy – especially if the windmills are offshore. No transgender women in sports. No way they are tolerated. A purge of woke content from school curricula, schoolbooks, school libraries, and school boards. Parents empowered to fire the principal of the schools their children attend; Trump says the parents can vote them out of their jobs.
Trump never goes far into the culture wars without conjuring up Hunter Biden, the president’s son.
Trump cannot get enough of Hunter’s laptop and the criminality of the Bidens, their business dealings and their money. We can barely follow all the Trump twists and turns in this tale, but there is no mistake that Trump wants Hunter nailed and his father to bear the consequences.
Reprising his role as Commander-in-Chief, Trump said, in case we have not been paying attention, that we are on the brink on World War III. That Ukraine would not have happened if he had been president. That we could have a peace deal “in 24 hours.” Trump wants to call Putin and knows Putin will be waiting for that call.
Trump’s great loyalist, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, was on the podium with Trump and put it this way after the event. “How many times have you heard we like Trump’s policies but we want somebody new? There are no Trump policies without Donald Trump.”
That’s the message Trump delivered to his base last weekend. And that’s how Trump intends to win.
Buried in Trump’s massive monologue was the core of what could be a winning message. “My mission is to secure a middle-class lifestyle for everyone. I did it before and I will do it again. And we will be respected in the world once again.”
Three powerful sentences which, coupled with the red meat of his anger and rage, mean that Trump is very much alive and kicking.
Leading athletes and medical experts push for medicinal cannabis in sport
Leading lawmakers, medical experts and athletes are pushing for therapeutic use of medicinal cannabis for chronic pain and injury
Basketball star Brittney Griner is one of the leading players of her generation. She jumped into the spotlight for serving a sentence for possession of cannabis oil in Russia.
It begs the question whether medicinal cannabis and athletes are a good mix. Well, many lawmakers, health experts and athletes around the world want to break down the stigmas associated with its use.
Many want to use Griner’s ordeal as motivation to change cannabis laws and therapeutic use exemptions in sports.
Mark Brayshaw, Managing Director of Levin Health has spoken closely with Dr. Peter Brukner who is a world-renowned Australian sports medicine clinician and researcher.
Brukner believes athletes should be able to compete in their field with medicinal cannabis because it doesn’t enhance their performance.
Brayshaw believes there are higher risks for athletes becoming addicted to anti-inflammatory and opioids. As opposed to any risks associated with taking medicinal cannabis.
He explains it enables athletes to function in a healthy way, pain free.
Overall, there is hope Griner’s case will break down stigma surrounding natural medicines and athletes.
In Australia, there are tens of thousands of new applications for medicinal cannabis every month.
There are also growing calls for countries to adopt therapeutic use exemptions in sport, including in the Australian Football League.
Why is China’s changing its strategy to handling the pandemic?
Changes to China’s COVID policies are coming thick and fast, much faster than many people anticipated given how strict the country has been in the last few years, the latest big announcement is around an app that people had to install on their phone
Then it tracked them when they travelled across the country, alerting them if they’ve been to a high risk COVID area, the government says that that app is now deactivated and people no longer have to have it installed on their phones.
It’s yet another indication of the change in China’s strategy to handling the pandemic.
We’ve seen changes related to quarantine, and also testing as well. And a real change in narrative from the authorities when talking about the virus and how dangerous it is. Now officially case numbers are dropping.
But that is largely due to the fact that much less testing is taking place, and we are seeing signs that in reality cases are surging.
There’s queues of people outside of pharmacies, queuing to get medication for colds and for fevers, and also self testing kits as well.
On social media, many people in China now saying that they have caught COVID For the first time, or that they know a number of people who have COVID When previously they didn’t know anyone at all.
So it’s clear that cases are rising, and this is coming just the month before the Chinese New Year holidays, which will take place at the end of January, traditionally a time when millions of people will travel across the country.
We would expect that to happen this year, as travel within China is now much easier.
So we would expect COVID cases to spread across the country talking to travel and is yet no sign of when the borders will open internationally.
Still very, very hard to get into China and very strict. When people do enter and the procedures they have to follow.
Maybe the government will wait and see how the first phase of reopening goes domestically, before thinking internationally?
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