In a significant development, U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping met on the outskirts of San Francisco on November 16, showing tangible progress in their first face-to-face encounter in a year. The talks yielded the resumption of military contact and a direct line of communication between both countries, which China severed after then House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan in August 2022. Biden said that they had “made important progress” in the meeting that lasted for four hours and that his ”responsibility is to make this rational and manageable so it doesn’t result in conflict.” Xi also spoke openly about wanting to pursue better relations with the US.
At a time when ties between the U.S. and China hit rock bottom, Biden called Xi ‘a dictator’, a comment which might have irked the Chinese President. Biden said, “He’s a dictator in the sense that he is a guy who runs a country… based on a form of government that is totally different from ours.” And on a sour note, the Chinese foreign ministry condemned Biden’s remark, saying the description was “extremely wrong” and “irresponsible political manipulation.” Both world leaders discussed other issues as well which continue to strain U.S.-China relations.
Taiwan- still a bone of contention
Simmering differences remain between both superpowers over the independence of the Taiwanese strait as Beijing views self-ruled Taiwan as its territory, and has threatened to annex it by force if necessary. Xi reportedly told Biden (according to Beijing’s account) that Taiwan was “the biggest, most potentially dangerous issue in US-China relations. The US side should stop arming Taiwan, and support China’s peaceful reunification as China will realize reunification, and this is unstoppable.” Washington on the other hand reaffirmed adhering to the One China policy, which acknowledges, but, does not recognize, that Taiwan is part of China.
Agreement on tackling Fentanyl trafficking
“A lot of people are dying,” Biden said in the opening statement of his press conference, referring to Fentanyl drug overdoses which kill over 70,000 Americans each year. Ingredients of the powerful opioid and pill presses come from China to Mexico and the product is then shipped to the U.S. A senior U.S. official said that under the agreement, China will go directly after specific chemical companies that make fentanyl precursors. Biden said. “It’s going to save lives and I appreciate President Xi’s commitment on this issue.”
Common Ground on Climate
U.S. and China, the world’s largest carbon emitters pledged to co-operate to slow methane emissions, a potent greenhouse gas – and support global efforts to triple renewable energy by 2030.
On Israel-Hamas war
Although both sides differed on the issue of the ongoing Israel-Hamas war, Biden asked Xi, who is pushing for a ceasefire to use his influence with Iran to urge Tehran not to launch proxy attacks on U.S. targets in the Middle East. Foreign Minister Wang Yi later assured the U.S. that the Chinese have communicated concerns to Iran on the matter.
After the meeting, Xi hinted that Beijing is open to sending more pandas to U.S. zoos.
Experts believe that Chinese President Xi Jinping has in fact come to mark a shift from its hardline stance on the United States and is attempting to stabilize the complicated relationship between both nations. This softening comes as China’s economy is seeing a notable downfall, forcing Xi to present China on a global stage once again and even himself to his domestic audience as skillfully helming China’s foreign affairs. Xi’s visit came as the Chinese economy struggles with a property market crisis, high local government debt and record youth unemployment. Positive coverage of the meeting back in China also offered some respite from the anti-U.S. sentiment due to the flaring of tensions. “Planet Earth is big enough for the two countries to succeed,” Xi told Biden at the meeting.