U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping are set to have their first face-to-face meeting in a year to address a range of issues including military conflicts, drug-trafficking, and artificial intelligence. However, officials from both countries have tempered expectations for the meeting, recognizing the long-standing disagreements on key topics such as Taiwan, the South China Sea, the Israel-Hamas war, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, North Korea, and human rights.
Arriving in San Francisco on Tuesday to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, Biden and Xi find themselves in a tense environment. China is grappling with economic weakness, territorial disputes with neighboring countries, and a Middle East conflict that has strained relations between the United States and its allies.
As the leaders made their way from the airport to the conference site, demonstrations both supporting and opposing the ruling Communist Party of China filled the route, highlighting the complexities surrounding the meeting.
Despite the challenges, Biden has been working to cultivate a personal relationship with Xi and hopes that direct diplomacy can help salvage the deteriorating bilateral ties. The meeting is set to take place in a remote and secure location several miles outside of San Francisco.
During the meeting, Biden is expected to raise concerns about Iran’s behavior, Chinese interference in foreign elections, and the status of American citizens wrongly detained in China. Concrete steps are anticipated to restore staff-level conversations on various issues, including military communications, fentanyl control, artificial intelligence, trade, and climate.
Biden will also emphasize the United States’ commitments in the Indo-Pacific region, with a specific focus on reinforcing the security of the Philippines. The timing of the meeting is critical, as China is expected to test Washington’s focus on Ukraine and Israel while pursuing its own ambitions in the Indo-Pacific.
For Biden, who is seeking a second term in office, the U.S. economy’s outperformance and the successful rallying of traditional allies against Russia in Ukraine have been significant achievements. On the other hand, President Xi, who has tightened control over policy and the military in recent years, faces economic challenges that have disrupted China’s long-standing growth trajectory.
The outcome of this meeting holds significant implications for the U.S.-China relationship and the broader geopolitical dynamics in the Indo-Pacific region. Both leaders will have the opportunity to address key concerns and potentially pave the way for improved collaboration or further strains in an already complex world order.
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