President Joe Biden will meet face-to-face with Chinese President Xi Jinping for the first time in a year on Wednesday, the White House said, in high-stakes diplomacy aimed at reducing tensions between the world’s two superpowers.
The closely watched interaction, on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in the San Francisco Bay Area, could last hours and involve teams of officials from Beijing and Washington.
It is expected to cover global issues from the Israel-Hamas war to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, North Korea’s ties to Russia, Taiwan, the Indo-Pacific, human rights, fentanyl, artificial intelligence, as well as “fair” trade and economic relations, senior Biden administration officials said.
“Nothing will be delayed; everything is on the table,” according to a US official, who declined to be named, in a briefing with reporters.
“We are clear-eyed about this. We know that efforts to shape or reform China over several decades have failed. But we expect China to be around us and be a major player on the world stage for the rest of our lives.”
US officials, who have been pushing for the meeting for most of the year, believe Beijing is actively working to undermine US policy around the world.
The White House confirmed the day of the meeting in a statement on Friday. The Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Friday that Xi will visit the United States on November 14-17, attend the APEC summit and meet with Biden.
Also read: China’s foreign minister suggests road to Xi Biden summit won’t be smooth
Biden and Xi will speak across oceans of ideological difference for the first time since November 2022. The US president’s team mounted a diplomatic flare to mend hostile relations after Biden ordered the downing of an alleged Chinese spy balloon that flew over the US sky in February.
The main result is expected to be greater diplomacy – promising to talk more about key issues such as climate, global health, economic stability, counter-narcotics efforts and possibly the resumption of some military-to-military channels after a high-profile freeze level.
Both sides may make modest goodwill gestures to facilitate talks, according to two other people briefed on the discussions.
But deep progress will be difficult. Both countries see themselves increasingly locked in a head-to-head competition to secure a military edge, spur a 21st-century economy and win the affection of second-tier countries, US and Chinese officials say.
Efforts to carefully choreograph Xi’s visit could backfire in the restive Northern California city, which has a long history of left-wing protests and unrest.
Biden and Xi have known each other for more than a decade and have shared hours of conversation over six interactions since Biden’s inauguration in 2021. But both men come to the table with mutual suspicions, grievances and confused impressions of what the other is up to, they say the analysts.
Among other sensitive issues, Biden is expected to raise Chinese “influence operations” in foreign elections and the status of US citizens who Washington believes are wrongfully detained in China.
Read: Biden hosts Chinese foreign minister at White House
Biden, 80, presides over an economy that has outpaced the expectations of even most wealthy countries in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unpopular with voters at home, he is seeking a second term amid concerns about the stability of US democracy.
Still, Biden has rallied the nation’s traditional allies from Europe to Asia to confront Russia in Ukraine, although some have differences over the Israel-Hamas conflict.
Washington’s long-standing alliances, from NATO to Pacific defense treaties, are not-so-quietly being called together in Asia to avert a clash with China.
Xi, a decade younger than Biden, has become the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao Zedong after tightening control over politics, state leaders, the media and the military and changing the constitution. Recently, complex economic challenges have thrown the country off its three-decade, rocket growth trajectory.
Diplomats in Washington expect Beijing to test the United States in the coming weeks, taking advantage of a perceived shift in US focus on Ukraine and Israel as it pursues its own Indo-Pacific ambitions.
Biden is expected to tell Xi that US commitments in the Indo-Pacific remain unchanged. China has alarmed its neighbors in recent years with moves in the Taiwan Strait, the South China Sea and the East China Sea, areas of international dispute. Biden will also express a specific commitment to the security of the Philippines, one of the US officials said.
Biden is also expected to press Xi to impress upon Iran that it would be unwise to try to expand the conflict in the Middle East, the official said.
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