Bachelet’s China Visit Shows Growing Divide Between China and the West

Image credit: EPA

UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet’s six-day trip to China was covered in controversy, showing a growing divide between China and the West. 

Analysts and experts say it is a worrying sign that even in the midst of talks about a “new cold war,” even the United Nations is unable to help bridge the divide. 

Beijing took advantage of the fact that a top UN envoy would be restrained in her tone and delivery. China’s State media channel said that Bachelet’s trip was an opportunity “to observe and experience first-hand the real Xinjiang.” 

State media claimed Bachelet expressed “admiration” for China’s progress on human rights. The United Nations denied that Bachelet ever said this. 

Bachelet’s office has been measured and diplomatic in approaching China, which is a significant playing within the United Nations system. Weeks before her trip, spokespeople told foreign journalists that the delegation would not include journalists, as it would affect the ability to hold “frank and open discussions with various stakeholders.” 

Critics expected Bachelet to lambast Beijing for its heavy-handed way of dealing with the Uyghur people, which many label as a genocide. Beijing denies this. 

Analysts say that the trip showed wider issues between China and the West. Trust has broken down, experts say, with both sides viewing the other through suspicion and an assumption about the other’s worst intentions. 

Relations are expected to worsen, with talks of “decoupling” and a “new cold war.” 

U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said that the U.S. remains concerned about Bachelet’s trip to China and Chinese efforts to restrict and manipulate her visit. 

Germany yesterday said that the trip “fell short of expectation” because of Chinese restrictions.  

Bachelet was harshly criticized by politicians, experts, and activists, saying that the UN became a tool of China’s genocide denial propaganda.

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