In a world beset by turbulence, the upcoming meeting between President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping in the scenic San Francisco Bay Area emerges as a critical juncture. Scheduled for next Wednesday, this high-level encounter, announced by senior US administration officials, represents more than a diplomatic formality.
It's a crucial test of whether these global leaders can stem the tide of a deteriorating relationship amid mounting international crises. While the Biden-Xi summit is unlikely to herald a major warming in Sino-American relations, its mere occurrence is a positive development, according to White House aides.
Months of friction have culminated in this opportunity to construct a "framework" for managing competitive yet successful relations between the two superpowers. The aim? To dispel misperceptions and circumvent unforeseen diplomatic shocks.
However, realism shades the summit's expectations. Biden's team approaches with a clear-eyed view, not anticipating a lengthy list of outcomes. It's a stance reflecting the complexity and depth of the issues at hand.
Personal Bonds and Political Riffs
The backdrop to this meeting is a narrative of personal rapport shadowed by political divergences.
Presidents Biden and Xi, who developed a warm relationship during their vice-presidential tenures, now preside over the most strained phase of US-China relations in decades. Central to these tensions are critical issues like Taiwan - a self-governing entity claimed by China and presently on the brink of significant elections, exacerbating regional sensitivities.
Compounding these strains are Biden's recent restrictions on advanced technology exports to China, citing national security concerns, and America's calls for China to assume a more constructive role in global conflicts, notably the Israel-Hamas and Russia-Ukraine situations.
As Bonny Lin, Director of the China Power Project, succinctly puts it: “Right now, neither the United States nor China are entering the meeting...expecting to significantly improve or reset the relationship”.
Instead, it's about managing and stabilizing ties, enhancing communication, and preempting misunderstandings. Wednesday's summit marks only the second face-to-face interaction between Biden and Xi in the past three years.
Their previous meeting at the G20 summit in Bali set a foundational tone for their relationship amidst economic and military tensions.
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