China’s foreign ministry on Thursday said Chinese President Xi Jinping was not criticising Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, a day after Xi was seen confronting him at the G20 summit over alleged leaks from a meeting they held.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning told a regular media briefing that Beijing supports having frank exchanges as long as they are held on an equal basis, and said China hopes Canada will take action to improve bilateral ties.
“The video you mentioned was indeed a short conversation both leaders held during the G20 summit. This is very normal. I don’t think it should be interpreted as Chairman Xi criticising or accusing anyone,” Mao said.
In video footage published by Canadian broadcasters on Wednesday, a translator for Xi can be heard in the video telling Trudeau that “everything we discussed was leaked to the paper(s), that’s not appropriate.”
Xi himself can be heard saying, in Mandarin, “that is not appropriate, and we didn’t do it that way.”
Xi then goes on to say “if there is sincerity, we can communicate well with mutual respect, otherwise the outcome will not be easy to tell.”
Mao did not answer a question from Reuters on why this short exchange on Wednesday was set up and what Xi meant when he said “that is not appropriate, and we didn’t do it that way.”
Xi’s displeasure was possibly due to media reports, citing government sources, that Trudeau brought up “serious concerns” about alleged espionage and Chinese “interference” in Canadian elections when meeting with Xi on Tuesday, Trudeau’s first talks with the Chinese leader in more than three years.
The talks were kept informal, according to a Canadian government source, explaining why no official readout was published by either side.
“Firstly, I want to stress that China never interferes in the affairs of other countries,” Chinese foreign ministry spokeperson Mao said on Thursday.
She did not say whether news of Trudeau bringing up alleged Chinese interference on Tuesday was the reason behind the recorded exchange between the two leaders the following day.
The video captured a rare candid moment for Xi, whose image is carefully curated by Chinese state media.
Mao also said on Thursday that Xi saying to Trudeau: “otherwise the outcome will not be easy to tell,” was not a threat, as both leaders were engaging in a “normal” exchange and merely “expressing their respective positions”.