The president of United States, Joe Bidenand that of China, Xi Jinpingemerged Wednesday from their first face-to-face meeting in a year with promises of stabilizing their tense relationship and showing modest agreements to combat illegal fentanyl and restore military communications.
The two leaders passed four hours together – in meetings, a business lunch and a walk in the garden – with the intention of showing the world that, although they are global economic competitors, they are not locked in a winner-take-all showdown.
“Planet Earth is big enough for both countries to succeed“Xi told Biden.
The American president told Xi: “I think it is essential that you and I meet let’s understand clearlyfrom leader to leader, no misunderstandings or miscommunication. We have to ensure that competition does not lead to conflict”.
On a bucolic farm in Northern California, the two set to work untangling a multitude of tensions. Their meeting, on the sidelines of the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference, has far-reaching implications for a world grappling with economic crosscurrents, conflicts in the Middle East and Europe, tensions in Taiwan and much more.
They reached the expected agreements to stop the illicit production of fentanyl and reopen military ties, according to a senior US official at the end of the meeting. Many of the chemicals used to make synthetic fentanyl arrive from China to cartels that traffic the powerful narcotic to the United States, which is facing an overdose crisis.
Top military commanders will resume talks, which have become increasingly important as unsafe or unprofessional incidents between the two nations’ ships and planes have soared, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the agreements ahead of time. of Biden’s statements.
Both leaders recognized the importance of their relationship and the need to improve coordination. But their differences were evident: Xi indicated that he wants better cooperation, but on China’s terms. And he sought to project strength to his domestic audience in the face of U.S. policies that restrict imports from China and limit technology transfers to Beijing.
Biden, for his part, will also spend this week in California working to highlight new alliances in the Indo-Pacific and efforts to boost trade with other regional leaders.
Xi, speaking through an interpreter, declared that “It is an objective fact that China and the United States are different in history, culture, social system and development.”
The presidents and their respective aides on trade, economics, national security and regional diplomacy met across from each other at a single long table, the culmination of negotiations between top aides to both leaders over the past few months. It was the first conversation of any kind between Biden and Xi since they met last November in Bali.
Biden and Xi are trying to return to stable footing after their already strained relations plummeted following the US shooting down of a Chinese spy balloon. that had passed through the continental United States, and amid differences over the Chinese-ruled island of Taiwan, the hacking of a Biden official’s emails and other issues.
For Biden, Wednesday’s meeting was an opportunity for the president to do what he believes he does best: diplomacy in person.
“As always, there is no substitute for face-to-face conversations.”he said to Xi. With characteristic optimism, Biden outlined a vision of leaders managing competition “responsibly,” adding: “That’s what the United States wants and what we intend to do.”
Xi, for his part, was somber about the state of the global economy in the wake of the pandemic. The Chinese economy remains in the doldrums, with falling prices due to low demand from consumers and companies.
“The global economy is recovering, but its momentum remains slow,” Xi said. “Industrial and supply chains remain under threat of disruption and protectionism is on the rise. These are all serious problems”.
The relationship between China and the United States has never been smooth, he said. Still, he has continued to move forward. “For two great countries like China and the United States, turning their backs on each other is not an option,” she said.
More directly, Xi also suggested that it is not up to the United States to dictate how the Chinese run their affairs, stating: ““It is unrealistic for one side to reshape the other, and conflict and confrontation have unbearable consequences for both sides.”
The Biden-Xi meeting and broader summit events drew protests around San Francisco, but the demonstrations were kept at a distance. A large crowd strongly condemning Xi marched from the Chinese consulate to the summit venue at the Moscone Center, nearly two miles away. Speakers implored the Biden administration to stand up to Xi and China’s human rights violations.
During their talks, Biden was expected to let Xi know that he would like China to use its influence over Iran to make clear that Tehran or its proxies should not take actions that could lead to the expansion of the war between Israel and Hamas. The Biden administration views China, a major buyer of Iranian oil, as having considerable influence over Iran, which is a major backer of Hamas.
Ahead of Wednesday’s meeting, senior White House officials said Biden would emerge with more concrete results than from the leaders’ last talks in November 2022. There will be agreements by China to help stem the flow of chemicals used in the production of illicit fentanyl, and to reactivate communications between the militaries – increasingly important as incidents between the ships and planes of the two nations have skyrocketed.
While Biden was expected to defend expanding U.S. export controls on semiconductor chips, he was also expected to assure Xi that the United States is not trying to wage economic war with Beijing.
Xi, for his part, wanted Biden to assure him that the United States will not support Taiwan independence, start a new Cold War or suppress China’s economic growth. He also wanted to show the United States that China is still a good place to invest.
Even before Biden and Xi met, there were some signs of a thaw: The State Department announced Tuesday that the United States and China — two of the world’s biggest polluters — had agreed to continue efforts to triple renewable energy capacity worldwide by 2030, using wind, solar and other renewables.
Biden and Xi held their talks at Filoli Estate, a country house and museum located about 40 kilometers south of San Francisco. Biden was the first to arrive at the grand mansion, and then Xi. After shaking hands and smiling, they sat down with their aides to talk for more than two hours.
A working lunch followed with members of the inner circle of both administrations. They had ravioli, chicken and broccoli, with almond meringue tart and praline cream for dessert.
Before saying goodbye, they both toured the property along a red brick path between impressive Gothic trees. When reporters asked him how the meeting had gone, the President responded “good” and gave a thumbs up.
White House officials said Biden was coming to the talks bolstered by signs that the U.S. economy is in a stronger position than China’s, and that the United States is building stronger alliances across the Pacific.
In a speech at a campaign fundraiser Tuesday night, the U.S. president pointed to the upcoming meeting as an example of how “American leadership in the world is strengthening.” As for China, the president told donors that he has “real problems.”
(With information from AP)