Biden Meets Xi as US-China Military And Economic Tensions Continue to Escalate

UNITED STATES: On Wednesday, President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping will meet after a year, aiming to address military conflicts, drug trafficking, artificial intelligence, and tensions between their countries.

However, substantial progress on major differences between the economic superpowers might not occur immediately.

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Officials on both sides of the Pacific have set low expectations as Biden and Xi prepare to discuss contentious issues like Taiwan, the South China Sea, the Israel-Hamas conflict, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, North Korea, and human rights. These are long-standing areas of disagreement where the leaders have been unable to find resolution.

Biden and Xi landed in San Francisco on Tuesday, gearing up to convene their meeting during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit held on the sidelines.

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Leaders from the 21-member nation group, alongside hundreds of CEOs in San Francisco to engage with them, are gathering amidst Chinese economic challenges, ongoing territorial disputes involving Beijing and its neighbours, and a Middle East conflict causing division between the United States and its allies.

Efforts to meticulously plan Xi’s visit might face disruption in Northern California, despite attempts to clear the streets of homeless individuals.

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The pathway from the airport to the conference venue saw demonstrators both supporting and opposing China’s ruling Communist Party, an uncommon sight for Xi, who last visited the United States in 2017.

Biden has aimed for direct diplomacy with Xi, believing that his longstanding personal relationship with the most influential Chinese leader since Mao Zedong, built over a dozen years, could help mend the increasingly strained bilateral relations.

Xi and Biden are anticipated to meet at a large estate miles outside of San Francisco, which was carefully selected for its security, tranquilly, and isolation, far from the conference site.

Speaking to reporters on Air Force One, White House spokesperson John Kirby stated, “The table has been set… over the course of many weeks for what we hope will be a very productive, candid, constructive conversation.”

Biden is anticipated to put pressure on Xi to use China’s clout to persuade Iran not to engage in provocative behaviour or to push its proxies to join the war in order to prevent a regional escalation of the Israel-Hamas conflict during the potentially protracted summit.

He is also anticipated to bring up the subject of Chinese “influence operations” in international elections and the situation of American nationals who Washington claims are being wrongfully jailed in China.

Officials from the United States anticipated tangible actions to revive staff-level discussions between the two nations on certain matters, such as managing trade and climate change, controlling the development of artificial intelligence technology, and decreasing the supply of fentanyl. US officials claim that a large portion of the ingredients used to produce fentanyl originate in China.

Biden, 80, oversees an economy that has surpassed expectations and outperformed most wealthy nations following the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite facing unpopularity among domestic voters, he seeks a second term amidst concerns about the stability of U.S. democracy.

He has rallied traditional allies across Europe and Asia to address the situation in Ukraine concerning Russia, although some disparities exist among them regarding the Israel-Hamas conflict.

Xi, a decade Biden’s junior, has consolidated control over policies, state leadership, the media, and the military, even overseeing constitutional changes.

Recent compounded economic challenges have disrupted the country’s three-decade-long trajectory of rapid growth.

Officials across the region anticipate Beijing to test Washington in the forthcoming weeks, capitalising on the perceived shift in U.S. focus towards Ukraine and Israel as China pursues its objectives in the Indo-Pacific region.

During the meeting, Biden is expected to affirm to Xi that the United States’ commitments in the Indo-Pacific remain unwavering.

In recent years, China has unsettled its neighbours with actions in the Taiwan Strait, South China Sea, and East China Sea—regions embroiled in international disputes.

Additionally, Biden plans to specifically underscore the U.S.’s commitment to the security of the Philippines, as mentioned by a U.S. official.

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