China will host a flurry of top foreign leaders this week, as President Xi Jinping kicks off a norm-busting third term during which he’s vowed to increase his nation’s global influence.
Vietnam’s Communist Party chief Nguyen Phu Trong will arrive in China on Sunday for a four-day trip, becoming the first foreign leader to meet Xi since the Chinese president removed rivals and installed loyalists at a leadership reshuffle earlier this month.
Xi and his top officials are then expected to hold talks in the capital with Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan.
In November, he will likely travel to Indonesia and Thailand for major summits attended by global leaders including President Joe Biden and Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
The 69-year-old is also planning a trip to Saudi Arabia, the oil-rich kingdom’s foreign minister was cited as saying by Agence France-Presse on Friday. No timeframe was specified.
Xi’s busy diplomatic schedule comes after he pledged at the Communist Party’s twice-a-decade congress to ensure China leads the world in “international influence.”
His itinerary also telegraphs t continued return to the world stage, after the nation’s COVID-Zero policy for years constrained diplomatic visits to and from China.
Xi didn’t leave his nation for nearly 1,000 days after imposing the country’s first COVID-19 lockdown in January 2020. He broke that spell of self-imposed isolation with a visit to Central Asia in September, where he met with Putin at a security summit that centered on countering the US-led world order.
Scholz’s first visit to China since taking office is likely to come under scrutiny, as unease grows in Europe over Beijing’s human rights violations and ambivalent position on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The German leader is traveling with a business delegation seeking to boost trade ties.
Other visiting delegations have less complicated ties with Beijing.
Pakistan has stood with China at the United Nations, most recently voting to shoot down a debate on human rights abuses in Xinjiang, while China is the largest trading partner of Vietnam and Tanzania. All three countries have signed significant Belt and Road agreements with Beijing.
Those meetings at home foreshadow a tougher diplomatic date for Xi, who is expected to visit to Indonesia next month for the Group of Twenty summit where he could have his first in-person meeting with Biden since the US leader took office.
Tensions between Beijing and Washington have soared in recent months, in particular over China’s military aggression toward Taiwan and US curbs on Chinese chip-making.
Xi is then slated to travel to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation in Thailand, which takes place from November 18 to 19. Biden is expected to skip that event, but Putin is set to attend.
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