US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping will meet on Wednesday ahead of a summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Forum in San Francisco in a bid to ease tensions in what many see as the world’s most dangerous rivalry .
The leaders of the world’s two largest economies have known each other for over a decade and have held hours-long talks in six meetings since Biden’s inauguration in January 2021. But they have met in person only once since then and Xi has not visited the United States since 2017, when Donald Trump was president.
What topics are they likely to discuss?
According to the White House, the goal of the summit, to be held at an unannounced location in the San Francisco Bay Area, is to improve communications to prevent an intense rivalry from escalating into conflict. The meeting is expected to cover global issues, from the conflict in the Middle East to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, North Korea’s relations with Russia, Taiwan, human rights, artificial intelligence and “fair” trade and economic relations.
Biden is expected to tell Xi that the U.S. continues to stand with its allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific in the face of Chinese pressure against democratically ruled Taiwan, which China claims as its own, and in the South and East China Seas. He will also express a special commitment to Philippine security, U.S. officials said.
What offers can we expect?
The White House says Washington expects concrete results and hopes for progress in restoring military ties with China and combating trafficking in the potent synthetic opioid fentanyl, whose use has become a scourge in the United States. A deal on fentanyl would likely mean that Washington would have to lift human rights sanctions on the Chinese police forensic institute in return.
Biden said Tuesday his goal is to resume normal communications with China, including military-to-military contacts.
With elections in Taiwan in early 2024, political analysts expect China to seek U.S. assurances that it will not do anything to encourage independence supporters, while Xi also hopes to persuade Biden to ease tariffs and export controls , which should be maintained so that the most advanced semiconductors are not sent to China. At a separate dinner with business leaders, the Chinese president will also try to boost flagging investment in China by American companies.
Leaders could highlight plans to expand commercial flights between the two countries, and policy experts said they could take steps to ease restrictions on journalist visas, which would be mutually beneficial.
Biden is also expected to call on China to use its influence over Iran to avoid escalating the conflict in the Middle East.
But no one expects a realignment of relations or a major agreement that will dramatically change the way countries view each other. “We continue to find ourselves in a sustained period of competition and tension,” said Richard Fontaine of the Washington-based Center for a New American Security. “There will be no major breakthroughs, there will be no real substantive change.”
What impact will the meeting have on the markets?
Market participants will continue to monitor the talks to gauge sentiment between the two governments.
The 21 APEC members and the world are not hoping for an easing of tensions between the US and China, and progress in this regard would be viewed positively, but political analysts said any improvement in sentiment could only be temporary. Taiwan’s elections early next year and the US presidential election in November 2024, which could see a return of Trump, promise a year of uncertainty.
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