WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping had their first face-to-face meeting near San Francisco on Wednesday and both underscored the need to re-engage and de-escalate tensions.
In his opening remarks, President Biden stressed the need to prevent competition from escalating into conflict while President Xi emphasised that turning backs on each other was not an option for the United States and China.
The summit was held at the Filoli Historic House and Garden in Woodside, California. The talks covered various complex issues, including conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East.
Biden aims to enlist China’s influence with Iran to prevent an escalation in Gaza conflict and wants Xi to use his leverage to halt North Korea’s arms supply to Russia.
Biden highlights the need to prevent competition from escalating into conflict
According to the US media, the discussions also covered measures to curb the flow of fentanyl from China to the US. The reopening of military communication channels, closed by Beijing after former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Taiwan visit last year, was also on the agenda.
In his address to President Biden and the US delegation, President Xi emphasised the evolving global landscape since their last meeting in Bali a year ago. He acknowledged the world’s recovery from the Covid pandemic but noted sluggish momentum of the global economy.
Reflecting on the historical fluctuations in Sino-US relations over the past 50 years, Xi highlighted that despite challenges, the relationship consistently progressed. “It is unrealistic for one side to remodel the other, and conflict and confrontation has terrible consequences for both sides,” he said.
“The world at large is big enough for the two countries to succeed.”
Xi expressed optimism about the ample opportunities for both countries to thrive in the vast expanse of the world and eagerly anticipated discussing various global issues during the summit.
In a press-accessible segment before the summit, Biden expressed gratitude for Xi’s visit to the US and reminisced about their previous meeting in Bali.
Biden underscored the need to navigate competition without descending into conflict, echoing sentiments echoed by his administration in the past. He highlighted the importance of clear understanding between leaders, stating, “I value our conversation because I think it’s paramount that you and I understand each other clearly, leader to leader, with no misconceptions or miscommunication.”
Earlier, Biden arrived at the meeting site, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Secretary Commerce Gina Raimondo, and his National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.
The primary goal of the summit is to restore communication channels, particularly in the military, to avoid potential conflicts. The talks address various contentious issues, including military tensions around Taiwan, disinformation campaigns, human rights violations, and economic concerns.
The summit is crucial amid escalating global conflicts, and the atmospherics reflect the high-stakes nature of the meeting.
Biden hopes to walk away from his closely watched summit with Xi having put the US-China ties on steadier footing after months of tension between the two superpowers.
With conflicts raging in the Middle East and Europe as he prepares to fight for reelection, Biden hopes to prevent another crisis from exploding on his watch. But US officials were careful to not to hike expectations, saying they did not expect a long list of outcomes or even a joint leaders’ statement, as is customary following summits between leaders.
Aside from his summit with Biden this week, Xi will have a dinner with top American executives, eager to court US businesses amid sliding foreign investment in China — and to signal to the US government the importance the private sector places on China.
As Biden was preparing for the summit, Republicans questioned his decision to seek a meeting with Xi. Republicans on a House select committee on China sent Biden a letter spelling out areas they believe he must raise. US officials were also finalising an agreement with China to crack down on the export of the source chemicals used to make fentanyl ahead of the Biden-Xi talks.
Published in Dawn, November 16th, 2023