Xi Jinping’s handshake with US President Joe Biden has sent a clear message: the Chinese leader is now firmly back on the world stage.
Xi took no overseas trips since the start of the pandemic as China heavily restricted its borders and ramped up a stringent zero-Covid policy. Instead, the leader of the world's second largest economy conducted "cloud diplomacy" beaming into events via video-link and hosting summits online, even as his counterparts returned to business as usual.
But now, as Xi emerges back onto the world stage with his participation at the G20 and APEC summits in Bali and Bangkok this week, he is doing so having concentrated more power than ever before at home -- consolidated his status as the strongest Chinese leader since Chairman Mao Zedong.
Three weeks before Xi traveled to Bali, Indonesia to meet with Biden on the sidelines of the G20 summit, he was anointed a norm-shattering third term in office at the Communist Party’s National Congress.
The key political meeting also saw Xi retiring key party leaders seen as not in his inner circle and stacking the party’s top ranks with his staunch allies, some of whom were sitting at the table alongside Xi during his meeting with Biden on Monday evening.
While Xi took one international trip prior to that major leadership reshuffle, it was for a regional meeting of that saw Russia, China, India and Central Asian leaders gather in Uzbekistan one month prior to the leadership reshuffle at home.
Now, as he has consolidated power at home, it's clear that Xi is prepared to more squarely focus his attention on the international stage to address perceived threats to China there -- with the meeting with Biden being a key milestone in that new chapter of Xi's third term.