Hong Kong media revealed that the leaders of four EU countries had been invited to Beijing to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping in November. However, they have not yet decided whether to accept the invitation. But the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian called it “fake news.”
Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post reported on July 18 that Beijing had sent invitations to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez to visit China in November and meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping. But the European side has not yet decided whether to accept or not.
According to the report, the meeting time proposed by the Chinese side will be after the Oct. 20 National Congress of the Communist Party of China.
But this news was officially denied by the Chinese regime within 12 hours of being released—which rarely happens.
When Western reporters asked about this, Zhao Lijian denied it and said: “I don’t know where they got the information. What I can tell you is, this is fake news.”
The South China Morning Post did not back down. On the contrary, it updated a report that the senior EU diplomatic officials who initially provided the information confirmed that the above EU member countries had received a confidential invitation to visit in November and are currently looking into it.
The diplomat said the invitation remains unofficial but is expected to become official later this year.
The senior EU diplomat who provided the information told the South China Morning Post that the incident indirectly confirmed that Xi Jinping would be re-elected for a third term.
The person said: “Xi wants, I think, something like a coronation ceremony where the leaders of the world come to Beijing to pay tribute to “Xi Jinping III” (3rd term) … like Napoleon III.”
The question is, why do Chinese diplomats and Hong Kong media strongly disagree?
According to RFI, analysts said that the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s denial of this information has two possibilities. One is China’s internal reasons. The 20th Congress has not yet opened but has “issued invitations,” as if to show the attitude of “rice has been cooked,” or Xi Jinping’s re-election is certain. Will this cause further discontent within the party? Moreover, the “Zero-Covid” policy has led to a severe economic downturn in China. In that situation, Xi has already issued invitations, as if arranging events for countries to congratulate him. Will it have a negative effect?
The second is an external cause. Will the four countries’ leaders be sure to accept Xi’s invitation? For example, China initially hoped that Western leaders would attend the Beijing Winter Olympics opening ceremony, but it ended up in a diplomatic boycott by many Western countries. Beijing’s handling of Xinjiang, Hong Kong, and Taiwan affairs was behind Western reluctance to attend. In the most obvious example, the ambitious China-EU Investment Agreement, negotiated for more than seven years, has also been suspended.
To date, relations between China and Western countries have worsened because China supported Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
RFI wrote that Zhao Lijian said it was “fake news” so Beijing would not lose face if the invitee did not come. Still, some netizens commented that this incident caused people to feel that Xi Jinping does not understand global sentiments towards China.
In addition, some observers think that the Chinese Foreign Ministry denies Xi Jinping’s re-election attitude?
During a live stream on the Youtube channel, commentator Jiang Sen Zhe said that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs could have used a more flexible expression like “did not hear this rumor.” However, the rumor benefits Xi; now, openly saying it is fake news does not save Xi’s face.
Jiang Sen Zhe mentioned that Li Keqiang attended a special video conference of the World Economic Forum on July 19. A day earlier, a spokesman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Wang Wenbin, signaled in advance that Li Keqiang would join this conference. This is the behavior reserved for China’s top leaders. In the past, when Li Keqiang attended this type of video conference, there was, at most, an announcement in the mass media, and a spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would not appear to announce Li Keqiang’s upcoming activities as on this occasion.
The above are all strange political signals from the CCP’s top leaders ahead of the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China.
On July 19, commentator Wang Jian commented on this issue during a live broadcast. He said the most crucial point is that the news published by the South China Morning Post seemed complete. This newspaper would not dare to speak loosely on such a big issue. Therefore, this news can be interpreted as Xi Jinping wanting to show the world he is about to be re-elected.
Why would China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs deny this news?
According to Wang Jian’s analysis, there are three possibilities. Firstly, the “South China Morning Post” did not ask for instructions to report and claimed to publish this news without permission to win the leaders’ favor. But this possibility is minimal. The second possibility is that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Chinese Communist Party sent an invitation, but the other party did not respond. It is estimated that other parties may not come, and the Chinese Foreign Ministry has denied that. Thirdly, Chinese diplomacy issued an invitation, and soon after the South China Morning Post reported, Xi Jinping’s political opponents caught on to the matter and denied the information. Denial may result in the invitation being withdrawn. If such a move occurs, Western countries will soon learn that Xi Jinping’s position is not very solid, and this is precisely what Xi’s political opponents want to achieve.