Biden and Xi discuss trade, Taiwan and US-China ties

President Biden to meet China's Xi in San Francisco
President Biden to meet China's Xi in San Francisco - Getty Image

The leaders of the two largest economies in the world, U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping, will hold talks on Wednesday in California. The meeting, which will take place on the margins of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in San Francisco, will be the first face-to-face encounter between the two presidents in a year.

The White House announced that Biden and Xi would discuss how to “maintain open lines of communication” and “responsibly manage competition and cooperation” on issues of common interest, especially those that affect the global community. China’s Foreign Ministry confirmed that Xi would attend the APEC summit from Tuesday to Nov. 17 at Biden’s invitation and join the U.S.-China summit.

According to two senior Biden administration officials, who spoke to reporters anonymously under White House rules, the location of the meeting in the San Francisco Bay area was not disclosed for security reasons. They also said that they expected many protesters to show up in San Francisco during the summit. On Thursday, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Chinese Vice Premier He Lifeng met in San Francisco, as part of a series of high-level interactions between the two countries in recent months to ease tensions. They will continue their talks on Friday.

The officials said that the Biden-Xi meeting was not likely to produce any major breakthroughs or agreements, and that the differences between the two powers would remain unresolved. Instead, they said, Biden’s goal was to “manage the competition, prevent the risk of conflict and keep the channels of communication open.” They also said that they believed it was Xi’s first visit to San Francisco since he was a young Communist Party official.

The meeting will cover a range of thorny issues.

The U.S.-China relationship, which was already complex, has worsened in the last year, with Beijing unhappy about new U.S. export restrictions on advanced technology; Biden ordering the destruction of a Chinese spy balloon that flew over the U.S.; and China angry about a U.S. stopover by Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen earlier this year, among other things. China considers Taiwan as part of its territory.

Biden will also probably urge Xi to use China’s influence on North Korea, amid growing concerns over North Korea’s increased ballistic missile tests and its supply of weapons to Russia for its war in Ukraine.

Biden will also likely tell Xi that he wants China to use its growing clout over Iran to prevent Tehran or its allies from escalating the Israel-Hamas war. His administration thinks that China, a major buyer of Iranian oil, has a lot of leverage over Iran, which is a key supporter of Hamas.

Biden and Xi met for the last time almost a year ago at the Group of 20 summit in Bali, Indonesia. In that meeting, which lasted almost three hours, Biden directly challenged China’s “coercive and aggressive actions” toward Taiwan and talked about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and other matters. Xi emphasized that “the Taiwan issue is the core of China’s core interests, the foundation of the political basis of China-U.S. relations, and the first red line that cannot be crossed in China-U.S. relations.

As he gets ready for a possible meeting with Xi, Biden has a talk with the Chinese foreign minister

The Chinese foreign ministry stated that Biden and Xi would have “deep discussions on the strategic, overall and directional issues of the China-US relations as well as major issues related to world peace and development.”

The meeting next week is happening as the United States prepares for a potentially challenging year for U.S.-Chinese relations, with Taiwan having a presidential election in January and the U.S. having its own presidential election next November.

Beijing views official American contact with Taiwan as an incentive to make the island’s long-standing de facto independence permanent, a step U.S. leaders say they don’t support. Under the “One China” policy, the U.S. acknowledges Beijing as the government of China and doesn’t have diplomatic relations with Taiwan, but it has maintained that Taipei is an important partner in the Indo-Pacific. Biden plans to reaffirm the U.S. wants no change in the status quo, one official said.

Disinformation experts who testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee warned that Beijing could try to target the U.S., creating discord that might affect election results at the local level, especially in districts with many Chinese-American voters.

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The Biden administration has tried to make clear to the Chinese that any actions or interference in the 2024 election “would raise extremely strong concerns from our side,” according to one official.

The officials also said that Biden is committed to restore military-to-military communications that Beijing mostly cut off after then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan in August 2022.

Meanwhile, the number of dangerous or provocative incidents involving the two nations’ ships and aircraft have increased.

Last month, the U.S. military released a video of a Chinese fighter jet flying within 10 feet (3 meters) of an American B-52 bomber over the South China Sea, almost causing an accident. Earlier that month, the Pentagon released footage of some of the more than 180 intercepts of U.S. warplanes by Chinese aircraft that happened in the last two years, part of a trend U.S. military officials call concerning.

Gen. CQ Brown Jr., the top U.S. military commander, told reporters in Tokyo on Friday that restoration of military-to-military contacts is “hugely important” to “ensure there is no miscalculation” between the sides. He said he sent a letter to his Chinese counterpart expressing his desire to resume the dialogue.

The officials also said Biden would emphasize U.S. commitment to the Philippines, after a recent episode in which Chinese ships blocked and collided with two Filipino vessels near a disputed shoal in the South China Sea.

The Philippines and other neighbors of China are opposing Beijing’s broad territorial claims over almost the entire sea.

“I want to be very clear,” Biden said in October. “The United States’ defense commitment to the Philippines is iron clad.”

Both sides seemed to be carefully considering security for the meeting, not revealing the location of the much-awaited talks.

Thousands of people protesting climate destruction, corporate practices, the Israel-Hamas war and other issues are expected to come to San Francisco during the summit.

San Francisco Police Department Chief Bill Scott said his department expects several protests a day but doesn’t know which ones will happen where and when. He said the city respects people’s right to protest peacefully but will not tolerate property destruction, violence or any other crime.

Biden, Xi to Meet Nov. 15 in San Francisco