WOODSIDE: US President Joe Biden met Chinese leader Xi Jinping for the first time in a year on Wednesday (Nov 15) for talks that may ease friction between the two superpowers over military conflicts, drug-trafficking and artificial intelligence. Biden welcomed the Chinese leader at the Filoli estate, a country house and gardens about 48km south of San Francisco, where they will move later for a summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum.
The US and Chinese leaders will be seeking to reduce friction in what many see as the world’s most important relationship, but deep progress on the vast differences separating them may have to wait for another day.
Officials on both sides of the Pacific have set expectations low as Biden and Xi are set to discuss Taiwan, the South China Sea, the Israel-Hamas war, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, North Korea and human rights – areas where the leaders have been unable to resolve long-standing disagreements. Biden and Xi arrived in San Francisco on Tuesday where they will both participate in the (APEC) summit. Leaders from the 21-country group – and hundreds of CEOs in San Francisco to court them – meet amid relative Chinese economic weakness, Beijing’s territorial feuds with neighbors, and a Middle East conflict that is dividing the United States from allies.
Experts say Xi will be looking for a smooth summit with Biden to show those at home concerned about the economy and dwindling foreign investment that he can successfully handle relations between the world’s two largest economies. Efforts to carefully choreograph Xi’s visit may be upended in San Francisco despite efforts to drive homeless people from the streets. The route from the airport to the conference site was lined with demonstrators for and against China’s ruling Communist Party, an unusual sight for Xi, who last visited the United States in 2017. The venue for the bilateral summit, far from the APEC conference location,
Biden has sought direct diplomacy with Xi, betting that a personal relationship he has cultivated for a dozen years with the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao Zedong might salvage ties that are increasingly turning hostile.
Chong Ja Ian, a political science professor at the National University of Singapore, said the two sides are engaged in what Mao referred to during the Chinese civil war as “talk and fight, fight and talk”.
“That is, to talk while building up forces,” Chong said.
The White House hopes the meeting could set the stage for further talks.
“We’re all expecting that this will be a productive discussion today, and hopefully, a precursor to much more communication and dialogue between our two teams going forward,” White House spokesperson John Kirby told reporters ahead of the meeting.
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