SHANGHAI: As Chinese President Xi Jinping prepares for his first face-to-face meeting with US President Joe Biden in San Francisco during the APEC summit, both leaders are seeking to navigate a complex relationship marked by trade tensions, sanctions, and geopolitical disputes, including the sensitive issue of Taiwan.
The last time Xi visited the United States was six years ago, engaging with then-President Donald Trump, who had promised a promising relationship that, unfortunately, did not materialize. Now, against the backdrop of strained relations, the leaders aim to stabilize ties.
Despite positive momentum from November 2022 talks between Xi and Biden in Bali, recent events have strained the relationship, such as the United States shooting down an alleged Chinese spy balloon, leading to the delay of a planned visit by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
The upcoming meeting is viewed as crucial for symbolizing the leaders’ shared commitment to establishing more stable bilateral relations. Analysts, however, express caution about expecting concrete outcomes, emphasizing the importance of the meeting’s symbolic value.
China’s foreign ministry has remained somewhat vague about expectations, mentioning “in-depth communication” and “major issues concerning world peace.” Chen Dingding, president of the Guangzhou-based think tank Intellisia Institute, underscores China’s emphasis on positive efforts to stabilize US-China relations.
China Wants to Identify Points of Cooperation with US
Strategically, Beijing aims to identify points of cooperation with the US, seeking common ground amidst economic challenges and the political imperative for Xi to project an image of strength.
Several contentious issues, including Washington’s perceived failure to implement the consensus reached in Bali, Taiwan, and military activities in the South China Sea, could pose challenges to smoothing tensions.
While trade and economic relations have shown recent progress, with discussions on climate change and meetings between high-ranking officials, there are lingering concerns about trade barriers, technology export controls, and restrictions on Chinese companies.
Xi’s trip includes a dinner with top US business leaders, with expectations that he will advocate for a relaxation of US trade curbs. Military dialogue, which has been suspended for a year, could also see a potential resumption, signaling a positive development.
Analysts express cautious optimism, acknowledging that despite differences, China and the US share common interests on certain global issues. The potential discussion of the Russia-Ukraine conflict and the Hamas-Israel conflict indicates a recognition of shared concerns amidst the complexities of their relationship.