President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping will have a face-to-face meeting for the first time in a year on Wednesday, according to the White House. The meeting, which will take place during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in the San Francisco Bay area, is aimed at reducing tensions between the two superpowers. Teams of officials from both Beijing and Washington are expected to be involved in the high-stakes diplomacy, which could last for hours.
Senior Biden administration officials have stated that the meeting is expected to cover a range of global issues, including the Israel-Hamas war, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, North Korea’s ties with Russia, Taiwan, the Indo-Pacific, human rights, fentanyl, artificial intelligence, as well as “fair” trade and economic relations. One U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, emphasized that nothing will be held back and everything is on the table.
The U.S. officials, who have been advocating for this meeting for almost a year, believe that Beijing has been actively working to undermine U.S. policy worldwide. The White House confirmed the meeting in a statement on Friday, while the Chinese foreign ministry announced that Xi would visit the United States from November 14-17 to attend the APEC summit and meet with Biden.
This will be the first time Biden and Xi speak directly since November 2022. The U.S. president’s team has made efforts to repair hostile relations after Biden ordered the shooting down of a suspected Chinese spy balloon that entered U.S. airspace in February. The main outcome of the meeting is expected to be increased diplomacy, with promises to engage in further discussions on key issues such as climate, global health, economic stability, counter-narcotic efforts, and potentially the resumption of some military-to-military channels after a period of freeze.
Both sides may make small gestures of goodwill to facilitate the talks. However, achieving significant progress will be challenging as both countries view themselves as engaged in a direct competition to secure military superiority, dominate the 21st-century economy, and gain the support of second-tier countries.
Efforts to carefully plan Xi’s visit may face disruptions in the restive Northern California city, which has a history of left-wing protests. Despite having known each other for over a decade and engaging in multiple conversations since Biden’s inauguration, both Biden and Xi approach the meeting with mutual suspicion, grievances, and distorted perceptions of each other’s intentions.
Among the sensitive topics to be discussed, Biden is expected to raise concerns about Chinese “influence operations” in foreign elections and the status of U.S. citizens believed to be wrongfully detained in China. Despite being unpopular with voters at home, Biden has managed to rally traditional allies from Europe to Asia to confront Russia in Ukraine, although there are differences regarding the Israel-Hamas conflict.
Washington is actively mobilizing its long-standing alliances, such as NATO and defense treaties in the Pacific, to deter any conflict with China. Xi, who is a decade younger than Biden, has consolidated power and become the most influential Chinese leader since Mao Zedong. However, China is currently facing economic challenges that have disrupted its three-decade-long rapid growth trajectory.
Diplomats in Washington anticipate that Beijing will test the United States in the coming weeks, taking advantage of the perceived shift in U.S. focus towards Ukraine and Israel, as China pursues its own ambitions in the Indo-Pacific. Biden is expected to reassure Xi that U.S. commitments in the Indo-Pacific remain unchanged and express a specific commitment to the security of the Philippines. Additionally, Biden is likely to urge Xi to caution Iran against escalating the conflict in the Middle East.
In conclusion, the face-to-face meeting between Biden and Xi is a crucial diplomatic effort to reduce tensions between the United States and China. The meeting will cover a wide range of global issues, and both sides are expected to engage in greater diplomacy. However, significant progress will be challenging due to the deep competition between the two countries. The meeting will also address sensitive topics and concerns, and Biden will emphasize the importance of U.S. commitments in the Indo-Pacific.
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