Understanding the Outcomes of the Meeting Between Biden and Xi at the APEC Summit: Stabilization Without Full Recovery
This article will explore the highly anticipated meeting between US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the APEC summit amid tense geopolitical tensions.
First Encounter at APEC Summit after a Year
A crucial and highly scrutinized event at the APEC summit was the first meeting in a year between the leaders of the two global superpowers, the United States and China. Following the APEC summit, the meeting between President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, is being seen as an attempt by the US to at least partially de-escalate the strained relations between the two nations.
The last time Biden and Xi crossed paths was at the G20 summit in Indonesia, precisely a year ago. Relations had taken a hit when Beijing severed military contacts with Washington post the unauthorized visit to Taiwan by Nancy Pelosi, then Speaker of the House of Representatives and effectively the third-ranking official in the US.
However, the recent interactions indicate a restoration of ties, not just at the military command level but also between state heads who have shown readiness to “pick up the phone” and discuss any pressing matters.
Addressing the sensitive Taiwan issue, Biden reaffirmed Washington’s commitment to the “One-China” policy. Xi stated that there is no military scenario for resolving the Taiwan crisis but criticized US military aid to Taiwan.
Efforts to Save American Lives
China exports to the US drugs containing fentanyl precursors, but the substance itself is used as a narcotic by some Americans, leading to a significant number of deaths annually. According to reports from The Guardian, Biden and Xi agreed to restrict these exports in a move that the US President noted, “Will save lives.”
Xi has also indicated a desire to see the easing of restrictions on China’s tech sector. How Biden responded remains unknown, but the topic itself is expected to reassure Chinese businesspeople concerned about the decline in foreign investment.
Unresolved Discrepancies Persist
Adding to the complexity was the US plan, which included influencing Moscow and Tehran through Beijing. During the talks, Biden encouraged Xi to leverage China’s influence in these areas. While the outcomes of these discussions remain unclear, Biden’s subsequent reference to Xi as a “dictator” – though clarified as not being offensive – certainly did little to smooth over tensions.
Xi contended that despite sociocultural differences, peaceful coexistence and mutually beneficial cooperation between Washington and Beijing are possible. However, the fact remains that substantial issues such as market liberalization for Chinese products in the US, scientific and technical cooperation, and conflicts in the Middle East and Ukraine have seen no convergence of positions.
Analysts believe that the meeting yielded the best possible outcome under current circumstances, showing a mutual willingness to soften “insurmountable” contradictions. Nevertheless, the experts conclude that hopes of pressuring Moscow and Tehran via Beijing are utterly vain.
Fragile Interdependence and Ongoing Tensions
Andrei Vinogradov, from the Institute for Oriental Studies, reminds us that a complete breakdown between Washington and Beijing is unfeasible due to their interdependence. Even as trade volume reaches $760 billion, positions that were outlined in a 2011 meeting between then-leaders Hu Jintao and Barack Obama haven’t shifted, signaling that the tug-of-war is set to continue.
As the two nations navigate their complex relationship, it is clear that though some tensions have been mitigated, the strategic situation remains largely unchanged.
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Note: This article provides an overview based on the available information from the referenced sources as of the knowledge cut-off date in early 2023.