Xi Jinping has angrily rebuked Justin Trudeau after Canadian officials shared details of a previous meeting, highlighting the frosty relationship between the two leaders.
In a clip recorded by the media pool at the G20 summit in Indonesia, a visibly frustrated Xi pulls the Canadian prime minister aside and says it was “not appropriate” for details about a previous conversation between the two leaders to have been shared with media, suggesting Trudeau lacked “sincerity” in his approach.
“Everything we discuss has been leaked to the paper, that’s not appropriate,” Xi says to Trudeau through a translator. “And that’s not the way the conversation was conducted,” he added.
The testy exchange came a day after government sources briefed that during a previous conversation on the margins of the summit, Trudeau had raised “serious concerns” with Xi over China’s increasingly aggressive “interference activities”.
Xi’s irritation on Wednesday was a rare break with his normally carefully scripted public appearances.
“In Canada, we believe in free and open and frank dialogue and that is what we will continue to have,” Trudeau said, interrupting Xi’s translator. “We will continue to look to work constructively together but there will be things we will disagree on.”
Gesturing with his hands, Xi told Trudeau the two must “create the conditions first”. The pair ended their conversation by shaking hands and leaving in opposite directions, with the Canadian prime minister looking chastened from the encounter.
The uncomfortable exchange – and the previous conversation – followed repeated warnings from Trudeau and other officials that China had attempted to undermine Canada’s democracy. Canadian intelligence officials briefed parliamentarians in January that they believe China interfered in the 2019 federal election, and media reports earlier this month alleged that Beijing had funded a clandestine network of candidates. On Monday Canadian police charged a researcher at Quebec’s power company with espionage for allegedly sending trade secrets to China.
After the first conversation, Trudeau’s team said he and Xi also discussed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, North Korea and the importance of the Cop15 biodiversity conference in December, where China and Canada will co-host nations in an effort to “to protect nature and fight climate change”, the source said.
With relations still tense between the two countries, Trudeau was left out of any formal meetings with Xi – a diplomatic snub for the prime minister. The Chinese leader made time in Bali to meet with the US president, Joe Biden, in a closed-door meeting that lasted more than three and a half hours. Xi also met the French president, Emmanuel Macron, and Australian prime minister, Anthony Albanese.
Speaking to reporters after the tense interaction, Trudeau said not every conversation with Chinese leadership was “going to be easy” but added that Canada needed to be able to “engage constructively and directly while at the same time be there to challenge on human rights and values that matter to Canadians”.