APLN member Tong Zhao was quoted in Nikkei Asia, arguing that Beijing remains confident in its leverage to shape the American approach toward China. Read the original article here.
In their first face-to-face exchange in a year, U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping met for roughly four hours on Wednesday, agreeing to establish dialogue mechanisms for anti-drug cooperation, military-to-military exchanges and artificial intelligence.
“He and I agreed that each of us can pick up the phone and call directly and we would be heard immediately,” Biden told reporters after the meeting.
The reconciliation ends a 15-month deep freeze in relations that began after the visit to Taiwan by former U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, after which China halted all channels of exchange. But more broadly, it attempts to alter the escalatory nature of the relationship, which stems on the U.S. side from a fear of being replaced, and on the Chinese side from the frustration of feeling constricted.
The morning started with the two leaders driving roughly 45 kilometers south from San Francisco to the Filoli estate, a historic country house surrounded by lavish gardens and a 654-acre (265-hectare) wooded setting. Biden stood outside the door as Xi’s limousine arrived. They shook with both hands while smiling, before walking into the house.
Biden and Xi have known each other for 12 years, having met, dined and traveled together on multiple occasions. They both reflected those earlier experiences in their opening statements.
But the hope that their personal relationship would keep bilateral relations warm has not materialized, as the two superpowers continue to remain at loggerheads on a multitude of issues.
“It’s paramount that you and I understand each other clearly, leader to leader, with no misconceptions or miscommunication. We have to ensure that competition does not veer into conflict,” Biden told Xi in his opening words.
Xi called the China-U.S. relationship “the most important bilateral relationship in the world.” He added, “For two large countries like China and the United States, turning their back on each other is not an option.”
It is “unrealistic for one side to remodel the other,” he warned Biden, adding that conflict and confrontation would have “unbearable consequences” for both sides.
Planet Earth is big enough for the two countries to succeed, Xi said. He noted that as leaders at the helm of China-U.S. relations, “We shoulder heavy responsibilities for the two peoples, for the world and for history.”
Tong Zhao, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said that Beijing is still confident about its leverage to shape the American approach toward China.
“They increasingly demand China be treated as an equal power as the United States and they genuinely believe that China has greater leverage than before to influence the rules on that govern the bilateral relationship,” he said.
Zhao said that while China has a host of issues back home, in the big picture, the gap with the U.S. continues to narrow and this is the source of their confidence. China also looks at America’s problems, Zhao said, such as another potential government shut-down crisis and the wars in Ukraine and the Middle East.
The two leaders agreed to establish an intergovernmental dialogue on artificial intelligence and a working group to carry out anti-drug cooperation and to restore high-level communication between their militaries.
On fentanyl, an opioid drug approximately 100 times more potent than morphine and the cause of many deaths in the U.S., the presidents agreed to take steps to crack down on companies in China that produce the chemical precursors used in its production.
“It’s going to save lives, and I appreciate President Xi’s commitment on this issue,” Biden told reporters.
Speaking about their agreement to resume direct military-to-military contacts, Biden welcomed the development and said the absence of such mechanisms could cause “real trouble” with a country like China.
On AI, Biden said the dialogue could follow in the steps of fentanyl and become a model case of U.S.-China collaboration. “These are tangible steps in the right direction to determine what’s useful and what’s not useful, what’s dangerous and what’s acceptable,” he said.
Overall, Biden said, it is important for the world to see that the U.S. is engaging in traditional diplomacy, being blunt so as to avoid misunderstandings.
He said he had discussed the wars in Ukraine and Gaza, as well as Chinese activities in the South China Sea, but did not disclose details.
Xi slammed U.S. export controls and bans on high-tech investment as “depriving the rights of development” of the Chinese people. He asked the U.S. to lift unilateral sanctions and create a “fair, just and nondiscriminatory environment” for Chinese companies.
The sides also agreed to “drastically increase” flights between the U.S. and China early next year.
Image: U.S. President Joe Biden listens as Chinese leader Xi Jinping speaks during their meeting at the Filoli Estate in Woodside, California, on Nov, 15. © AP