BEIJING / WASHINGTON, Nov. 16 (Reuters) – Chinese leader Xi Jinping greeted US President Joe Biden as an “old friend” at the beginning of their first meeting via video, using an expression that Biden has rejected.
In China, the expression “lao peng you” connotes affection and shows a level of familiarity and trust, and when said by Xi, 68, it reflects a shared history that dates back to August 2011, when the two had hours of conversations. and they traveled through Sichuan. province – before either of them had reached the highest office.
Wang Huiyao, president of the Center for China and Globalization, said Xi’s use of the expression is a show of genuine goodwill.
Daniel Russel, the top US diplomat for Asia under former President Barack Obama, said it was part of each leader’s quest for “high narrative ground” at the inauguration.
“Xi deliberately greeted Biden as’ my old friend ‘, after Biden stated that this summer he expressly denied that they were’ friends’. And Biden, with a big smile, reminding Xi that all countries, including China, ‘have to follow the same rules of the road, ‘”Russel said.
Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations at China’s Renmin University, highlighted Xi’s use of the term despite the difficult state of relations.
“When we Chinese call someone an old friend, we mean that we have known them for a long time. But an ‘old friend’ does not necessarily mean that they are still a true friend,” Shi said.
Given the current diplomatic tensions, Biden may not want to be seen by America’s allies and political opponents as too much of a “friend.”
In June, a reporter asked Biden, 78, if he could call Xi “old friend to old friend,” seeking access for World Health Organization researchers searching for the origins of COVID-19. .
“Let’s get something straight. We know each other well; we’re not old friends. It’s pure business,” Biden said at the time.
Before Monday’s meeting, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki was asked about that exchange.
“Well … I can confirm … he still doesn’t consider him an ‘old friend’ so he’s still consistent,” he said.
(Reporting by Yew Lun Tian and Tony Munroe in Beijing and Trevor Hunnicutt and David Brunnstrom in Washington; Edited by Michael Perry)