AWhen Xi Jinping met then-US President Donald Trump for the first time in 2017, he was received with military honors in Florida and lavishly entertained at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate. His first face-to-face meeting with incumbent President Joe Biden, on the other hand, will take place this Monday without pomp on neutral ground before the start of the G-20 summit in Indonesia.
Biden has spoken to Xi five times since taking office in January 2021. Both have known each other for many years. In 2011, when they were Vice Presidents, they met for the first time in China to get to know each other personally. At the time, Biden brought the news back to Washington that they would “have their hands full with the guy” who was set to rise to the post of head of state and party in Beijing.
Eleven years later, in the words of his National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, Biden will speak to Xi “directly and frankly as always” and expect Xi to do the same. The meeting follows two significant events: Xi ousted all moderates from the country’s governing bodies at the Communist Party convention in October and surrounded himself solely with followers. In his party speech, Xi castigated America’s China policy, without naming America, as “blackmail, containment, blockade and maximum pressure.” He swore his country to “dangerous storms,” which also refers to great power rivalry.
“Avoid misunderstandings and miscalculations”
The US government, in turn, stated in its National Security Strategy released in October that China is “the only country that has both the intention to transform the international order and increasingly the economic, diplomatic, military and technological power to achieve the goal”. .
Biden himself reiterated in a press conference last week that he was aiming for competition and not conflict in his relationship with China. He wanted to talk to Xi about what Washington considered “red lines” and to understand what China considered “important national interests” to see if they conflicted and how such a conflict might be resolved. When asked, he emphasized that he was not prepared to make fundamental concessions.
Xi, in turn, recently expressed his willingness to “work with the United States to find the right way to get along” in a message at a gala event in New York. The Foreign Ministry in Beijing on Friday said the aim of Xi’s meeting with Biden was “to avoid misunderstandings and miscalculations”. At the same time, the spokesman made it clear that Beijing would not make any concessions on “sovereignty, security and development interests”.
It can be seen as a sign of goodwill that China’s climate chief Xie Zhenhua met his American counterpart John Kerry for “informal consultations” at the UN climate summit in Egypt, although Beijing demonstratively used this channel of conversation after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan in August had blocked.
The tense military situation in the Taiwan Strait is expected to be at the center of talks in Indonesia. But Biden will also address trade issues, the human rights situation in Hong Kong and Xinjiang, as well as North Korea and China’s relations with Russia, Washington said. Beijing could address what it sees as containment policies, such as American export restrictions on certain high-tech products.
“Felsenfest” at Moscow’s side
Biden reiterated that America’s Taiwan Doctrine has not changed. In the National Security Council, it is constantly emphasized that Washington stands by the one-China policy and continues to advocate that there are no unilateral changes to the statute quo on the Taiwan question. In fact, Biden has said four times that Washington would defend Taipei militarily if Beijing attacks the island. In effect, the Biden administration has abandoned the strategic ambiguity that Washington has maintained for decades on the issue, aiming to keep China and Taiwan in the dark about its response to an invasion.
On Wednesday, when asked whether he would reaffirm Taiwan’s military assistance to Xi, Biden evaded his answer: He would have the conversation with Xi, he said. Not with media representatives that should mean.
The spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry on Friday again accused America of “using the Taiwan issue to contain China”. Washington’s announcement that it would update Taiwan on the course of the Biden-Xi meeting, he described as a “serious violation of the one China principle.”
In response to a statement by Biden that China had “distanced a little” from Russia, the spokesman said Beijing was “solid” on Moscow’s side. In his first phone call after the party congress, Foreign Minister Wang Yi assured his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov that China was striving to deepen relations. During the meeting with Biden, attention will be paid to whether Xi reiterates his statement from the meeting with Chancellor Olaf Scholz that the international community must oppose “the use or the threat of nuclear weapons.”
That was taken as a signal to Russian President Vladimir Putin. However, Xi made no mention of Russia in his statement, leaving room for Russian propaganda spread in China that Ukraine, not Russia, was planning to use a dirty bomb.