Prof. ST Hsieh
Director, US-China Energy Industry Forum
November 10, 2023
The Biden-Xi summit in San Fransico is finally, and officially, confirmed today by both nations. The summit is going to take place only five days away, it is a sign of how difficult the current US-China Relation is. The summit by itself is a significant step for improving the US-China bilateral relation, even though no one is expecting any concrete result or consensus.
Biden Administration inherited a strenuous US-China relation from the Trump Administration; it started with “Confrontation, Competition, and Cooperation.” Now it is modified to “Investment, Alignment, and Confrontation.” Xi more or less holds his position steady, but not yielding.
The world economy has suffered, or barely survived, the COVID-19 pandemic. Then the proxy war in Ukraine has significantly damaged Europe’s economy, without any sign of ending. Last month, the Israel-Hamas erupted suddenly, again there is no sign of cease fire. These wars severely test Biden’s foreign policy team’s bandwidth. Especially, Biden is mounting a very weak reelection bid with less than one year’s time. Some stabilization of US-China bilateral relation is good news for Biden; thus Biden has been sounding off the summit almost year round.
China faces significant challenge on managing her domestic economy, which is falling precipitously, and the GDP growth slows down significantly. But Xi’s political position in China is much more secure than Biden. Thus, it is unlikely that Xi is going to make any concession at the summit without reciprocal concessions from the Biden.
Even though the US openly claims the China is the greatest threat in history and has magnificent military presence in the Indo-Pacific region, there is no real immediate threat of any military confrontation between the US and China. Specifically, the US is already in charge of two dangerous regional wars far away from China. In fact, China can play major roles in ending these two wars, if the Biden asks Xi to be engaged.
War over Tiawan is not an immediate concern although it is an important/tough issue for stabilizing US-China bilateral relation. As of now, no one, absolutely no one, in China, in the US, and especially no one in Taiwan wants war. It is manageable as long as DC and Beijing can talk with each other.
The Biden-Xi summit could be a sideshow as compared to Xi’s meetings with US businesses and the APEC in the US. Plus, Biden has to play the host while the US federal government faces shutdown.
Biden and Xi meeting set for next week as US hopes to halt downward spiral in relations
Kevin Lidown., CNN
Fri, November 10, 2023 at 5:03 AM PST
President Biden’s highly anticipated meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping is set for next Wednesday in the San Francisco Bay Area, senior US administration officials said, setting up a test of whether the two men can slow a downward spiral in relations at a moment of heavy global turbulence.
The talks aren’t likely to produce a major thaw in the world’s most consequential bilateral relationship. Instead, the fact that the meeting is happening at all is viewed by White House aides as a positive sign after months of friction. US officials said the leaders hoped to develop a “framework” for managing successful competitive relations between the two powers, with the goal of clearing up misperceptions and avoiding surprises.
Still, the officials said Biden’s aides were entering the summit with realistic expectations and don’t anticipate a long list of outcomes afterward.
Facing a cascading conflict in the Middle East and a grinding war in Ukraine, Biden is eager to prevent another world crisis from exploding on his watch. Restoring a degree of stability to the Washington-Beijing relationship has been among his top foreign policy priorities, even as global tensions flare.
The list of issues expected to arise in the talks is long. It includes restoring military-to-military communication between the two countries, a chief objective for Biden, who plans to press Xi on the issue. Also on the table are the conflicts in Israel and Ukraine; areas of potential cooperation like climate change and countering narcotics trafficking; and deep disagreements over human rights issues and military escalation in the South China Sea and around Taiwan.
The sticking points include Taiwan, the self-governing island that China’s Communist Party claims as its own, and which it has vowed to take by force if necessary. The island will hold an election in January, ramping up sensitivities around its status.
The relationship has also been strained by new limits Biden imposed on advanced technology exported to China in the name of protecting US national security. And the US has pressured China to play a more constructive role in both the Israel-Hamas conflict and the Russia-Ukraine war, encouraging the country to step up its role on the world stage.
“Right now, neither the United States nor China are entering the meeting between President Biden and President Xi expecting to significantly improve or reset the relationship,” said Bonny Lin, director of the China Power Project and senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “Rather, the meeting will be about managing and stabilizing the bilateral relationship, improving communication, and reducing misunderstandings before they occur.”
Following a visit to Taiwan last summer by then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Beijing abruptly cut off communication with the US military, causing worry among American officials about the prospect of miscommunication or miscalculation in the tense contested areas of the South China Sea or around Taiwan.
But signs of improvement have emerged in recent weeks, and American officials are hopeful the summit will lead to reopening military communication.
And this week a senior Chinese official said Beijing is ready to improve ties with Washington. Recent high-level meetings have sent out “positive signals and raised the expectations of the international community on the improvement of China-US relations,” Vice President Han Zheng said during a Bloomberg forum in Singapore.
Xi, Biden to meet on sidelines of APEC amid international anticipation
At the invitation of US President Joe Biden, President Xi Jinping will be in San Francisco from November 14 to 17 for a China-US summit meeting and the 30th APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying announced on Friday.
The two Presidents will have in-depth communication on issues of strategic, overarching and fundamental importance in shaping China-US relations and major issues concerning world peace and development, said a spokesperson of the Foreign Ministry in a separate release.
With mounting factors of instability and uncertainty in the world economy, there is a widely shared expectation for the Asia-Pacific to remain an economic engine to lead global growth.
Key bilateral summit
The China-US summit meeting, highly anticipated by the world, comes at a time when the world’s two major powers, despite fierce competition in technology and other fields, have resumed contact and maintained frequent interactions at different levels in various sectors in recent months.
Positive signs in recent weeks also include a breakthrough in the field of arms control and nonproliferation talks, which had been frozen for years, and dialogue on climate change.
However, for this important but also turbulent relationship, the face-to-face meeting of the two heads of state is no doubt of great importance in guiding the bilateral ties to the right track, Li Haidong, a professor at the China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times on Friday. The summit comes at a pivotal juncture when bilateral relations could either herald a relatively stable future based on mutual benefit and cooperation, or step closer toward a new cold war, said Li.
“China reiterated its apparent decision to go for cooperation.”
During the upcoming summit, the US is expected to keep communication channels open and consolidate existing mechanisms while seeking breakthroughs on climate change and fentanyl control issues, Sun Taiyi, assistant professor of Political Science at Christopher Newport University, told the Global Times on Friday. China will underscore its openness and market attractiveness to the world through trade and economic issues, injecting new momentum into the global economy, the expert said.
The Taiwan question and other sensitive topics such as the South China Sea are likely to be on the agenda, where China will not yield to coercion in its stance. The two leaders will also likely cover global issues, including the Ukraine crisis and Israel-Palestine conflict to avoid spillover or further impact on global security, said Li.
Observers said it is hoped that the US can properly reciprocate China’s sincerity and goodwill, and work with China to shoulder the responsibility of major powers and jointly cope with global challenges, in particular injecting positivity into the Asia-Pacific and a world troubled by a sluggish economy and other challenges.