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San Francisco: Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has refused to call Chinese President Xi Jinping a dictator as anger in Beijing swirls over Joe Biden’s provocative description of his Asian counterpart.
One day after the US president used the term to describe Xi – moments after a historic meeting designed to reset the relationship between the US and China – Albanese was careful not to follow suit as he attended the latest Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit in San Francisco.
Vietnam’s President Vo Van Thuong, left, and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese smile as US President Joe Biden arrives for an informal dialogue and working lunch at the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit.Credit: AP
“We have different political systems from China as I have said consistently,” Albanese said when asked if he agreed with Biden’s description.
“Australia is a democracy, and China has a very different political system. They don’t have democratic elections.”
The comments come after Albanese spent a day with Xi, Biden and other global leaders at the summit, which is designed to bolster trade and co-operation between the 21 nations involved.
However, much of the focus this year centred on Wednesday’s (Thursday AEDT) highly anticipated meeting between Biden and Xi after years of escalating tensions.
The four-hour meeting was described by Biden as one of the most “constructive and productive” discussions he had had with his Chinese counterpart.
It also led to an important agreement to re-establish military-to-military communication between the two countries, which was cut off after then-US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s contentious visit to Taiwan last year.
However, Biden risked derailing the progress he made after ending a press conference by describing Xi as a dictator – something China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs slammed as “extremely incorrect and irresponsible political manipulation”.
The drama capped off what had otherwise been a typical global summit, albeit held against the backdrop of wars in the Middle East and Ukraine, and China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific.
China’s President Xi Jinping and US President Joe Biden walk in the gardens at the Filoli Estate in California.Credit: New York Times
After arriving in San Francisco on Wednesday (Thursday AEDT), Albanese met Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella and announced the government would work with the company to explore the use of generative artificial intelligence technology in the public service.
“The government will conduct a six-month trial of Microsoft 365 Copilot, making Australia one of the first governments in the world to deploy generative AI service,” he said.
The prime minister also met with his Canadian counterpart, Justin Trudeau, and Californian governor Gavin Newsom and had his first-ever bilateral meeting with Thailand’s PM, Srettha Thavisin.
He also sat alongside Biden for a roundtable meeting on climate change and later appeared on stage with the president and 12 other member nations to endorse agreements under the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, a strategy designed by the US, in part, to counter China’s rise.
But Albanese has come under fire for taking the trip – his fourth in a month – at a time when there are pressing domestic issues at home, such as tensions over the Israel-Hamas war and the High Court’s decision that indefinite immigration detention is unlawful.
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