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Xi calls Biden a carefree old friend

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As widely predicted, a virtual meeting between US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping () on Monday last week did not produce many concrete results. It only showed that the United States and China were trying to ensure that there was a fluid channel of communication between their key leaders that would allow the two countries to manage their complex relationship while competing against each other.

Another focus was Xis’ opening remarks, in which he said: I’m very happy to see my old friend, but I didn’t get a positive response from Biden.

The media quoted White House press secretary Jen Psaki as saying that Biden did not consider Xi an old friend, and many commentators made much of his lack of appreciation for Xis’ friendly gesture, calling it a slap.

However, this interpretation is questionable.

Terms used in diplomatic situations have special meanings, so experienced diplomats and politicians should use the words very precisely to avoid sending the wrong message. China is particularly picky on the ways to address someone, as well as the terms used in public, so Xi is unlikely to deviate from the script at such an important event, and all that ‘he said can be taken to represent how China views its relations with the United States.

Historically, China has called other countries and individuals good friends, old friends, good brothers and good partners, and if these are followed by the Chinese people, it means that the relationship is even closer.

The Old Friend is perhaps the lowest ranked of these titles.

For example, in 2015, China’s relations with Singapore were not good. When former Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew () died in March of the same year, then Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao (), who was not a member of the Communist Party Politburo Standing Committee Chinese, was sent to Singapore to attend Lees’ funeral.

Li passed on the condolence message from Xis, who called Lee an old friend of the Chinese people, indicating the state of relations between China and Singapore.

In 2018, China hosted a Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, which is an important opportunity for Beijing to rally African countries.

In his opening speech, Xi said: To China, we are always a good friend, a good partner and a good brother to Africa.

On October 13, Xi held a video conference with outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in which he called her an old friend of the Chinese people, making her one of the few leaders in recent years to be approached. in this way.

Only those whom China considers to have made a special contribution to bilateral relations can receive such an honor.

Xi calling Biden an old friend is just a polite form of addressing someone China has known for a long time, so it would be an exaggeration to suggest that Xi received a slap in the face from Biden in exchange for his goodwill gesture. .

Nonetheless, there is no doubt that the United States has a firm attitude towards China. As for Xi, there was no sign of him softening his tone or humiliating himself, at least not from the way he addressed Biden.

Taiwan should be more concerned with whether everything the United States and China do regarding important matters such as the cross-strait relationship and the relationship between the United States and China would have an effect on interests. major players in the nation, and should formulate the necessary countermeasures in a timely manner.

Kung Hsien-tai is director of the ethics department of Taiwan Financial Holdings.

Translated by Julian Clegg

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Comments containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. The final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

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