When Xi Jinping landed on American soil for the last time, the conditions at home and in the world were completely different. At his Florida mansion in 2017, he was welcomed by then-US President Donald Trump, and the Chinese leader was at the head of a country that was still on the rise and whose economy was beating forecasts.
However, the situation has changed since then, and the cracks in the “Chinese dream” have gradually deepened. Today, Si is trying to revive the moribund Chinese economy, which has not yet fully recovered after the relaxation of strict pandemic measures, the real estate market there is in crisis and youth unemployment is reaching record levels.
Even the leader on the other side of the table does not run the country without difficulties. The American president has long been occupied by international crises, such as the war in Ukraine or the latest conflict in the Gaza Strip. At a time when Joe Biden is running for re-election to the White House, continuing to escalate tensions with China is surely the last thing he wants.
“At a time when both are facing domestic and foreign policy challenges, there is less incentive for them to try to go one after the other and, on the contrary, a little more incentive to stabilize their relationship,” Yun Sun, director of the think tank’s China Program, told CNN Stimson Center tank in Washington.
Expectations that there will be a major breakthrough between the countries at Wednesday’s meeting in San Francisco are not exactly high. However, this is an important moment in the relations between the world’s biggest powers. Seznam Správy has therefore selected five essential topics that the leaders will probably not avoid in a joint conversation.
Restoration of communication
US-China communications on military issues took a hit after former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, which China views as a rebel province, last year. The decision was criticized by the Chinese at the time, and the country suspended most communication channels between senior military officials in protest.
According to senior representatives of the US administration, the Chinese were still “reluctant” to restore these lines, and so Biden will go to the meeting with his Chinese counterpart with a plan to “assertively push” for their restoration. The establishment of order in this area is an important factor not only for easing tensions in the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait.
Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives in SF for APEC summit and meeting with President Joe Biden. https://t.co/IMXjaRGX5q
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Gov. Gavin Newsom, and First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom were some of the officials who greeted Xi at the airport. pic.twitter.com/pyVaZPLC6L
— NBC Bay Area (@nbcbayarea) November 14, 2023
For example, Lyle Goldstein, director of Asia engagement at the Defense Priorities think tank, told NPR that more direct communication between the two camps is something that could help in the event of a larger crisis.
“I saw how contact with China affects the view of the situation of the top American military officials. I think they will become kind of more moderate; in part because they have to take the time to talk to these people face-to-face,” NPR quoted the expert as saying. “And I think it’s the other way around, that interaction is key.”
The question of Taiwan
One of the other topics of the expected meeting will certainly be the already mentioned Taiwan, which in recent years has increasingly become a source of disagreements between the two countries. Beijing considers the island part of mainland China and has promised in the past to “unify” it with the rest of the country.
It is these threats that further cloud China-US relations after Russia invaded Ukraine last February. A number of analysts fear that China, following Russia’s example, could seize Taiwan militarily. Concerns are fueled by military exercises of the Chinese army, which take place from time to time around the island.
Chinese Government Vs. Americans
The Chinese government is harassing US citizens and US politicians through a massive online operation. CNN’s findings about Beijing’s activities come at a time when Chinese President Xi Jinping is heading to the United States.
Today, diplomatic relations between the United States and Taiwan do not follow official lines. But the US law, the Taiwan Relations Act, provides the island nation with protection and the means to defend itself. Biden himself has also repeatedly made it known that he will rush to Taiwan’s aid, which Beijing does not like to hear.
That’s why Xi warned his American counterpart not to “play with fire” regarding Taiwan in their previous meetings – whether in person or virtual. It is therefore expected that the meeting on Wednesday will also be stormy when this topic comes up.
According to the Hong Kong website South China Morning Post, one of the main topics of the meeting should be the danger of artificial intelligence. The presidents should even strike a deal committing to ban the use of artificial intelligence in autonomous weapons such as drones and in the control and deployment of nuclear warheads, according to the site’s sources.
In the past, Washington and Beijing have already expressed concern about the unregulated use of this technology to incite conflicts, and the fact that this topic should also become part of the Sino-American conversation was also appreciated by the experts contacted by the aforementioned paper.
Chinese espionage in Britain
Through numerous fake accounts on the LinkedIn social network, a Chinese spy demanded sensitive information from British officials, scientists and academics and offered them high sums in the order of thousands of pounds.
“Given some of the problems we’ve seen with artificial intelligence so far, it’s imperative that a human remains in command and control of nuclear weapons,” said Bonnie Glaser, executive director of the German Marshall Fund of the United States, for example.
However, Oriana Skylar Mastro, who works at Stanford University, is not sure about the tangible result of the conversation, for example, who pointed out that China is very “sensitive” to the concept of arms control, as it has a much smaller arsenal than the US. “They are not willing to get involved and I don’t think that attitude will change,” explained the political scientist.
In addition to the issue of Taiwan or the restoration of military communication, the pair of leaders will probably also focus on fentanyl, which has recently risen to the top of the list of problems that worry the Biden administration. The substance has flooded the drug scene in the USA on a large scale and many people have already died as a result of overdose.
In addition, the US Department of Justice last month announced several indictments against Chinese companies and nationals, accusing them of crimes related to the production of fentanyl and methamphetamine, the distribution of synthetic opioids and the sale of chemicals used to make them.
The US and conflicts in the world
The United States has already sent billions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine and Israel in recent years. In an effort to get more money for both countries, however, Joe Biden faces difficult obstacles, such as chaos in the House.
In addition, the way Biden handles and will handle the fentanyl issues in relation to China will likely accompany him throughout the 2024 presidential campaign. to bring drugs into the US.
According to the Americans, China serves as a supplier to the Mexican drug cartels.
China and conflicts
The last elephant in the room will be the aforementioned Russian war in Ukraine and the conflict in the Middle East. Although since last February, China has declared itself to be taking a neutral stance, experts describe its approach as more of a pro-Russian neutrality, drawing sharp criticism from the US.
Not only the representatives of the White House have also repeatedly warned against the possibility that China will provide direct support to Russia during the invasion of Ukraine. Although Beijing denies this, its words about neutrality are not helped by the fact that Xi met Russian President Vladimir Putin in Beijing last month, who was his guest at the annual summit of a major infrastructure building project called the New Silk Road.
Biden v Israel
Joe Biden has arrived on an extraordinary visit to Israel, to which he expresses firm support in the effort to eliminate the Hamas movement. However, the latest news of hundreds of dead after an explosion at a hospital in Gaza only makes his journey more difficult.
China then claims that it is neutral even in the war between Israel and Hamas. However, the Biden administration believes that China could have an influence on how the next phase of the conflict will develop. The main role here is played by China’s good relations with Iran, which is the main supporter of the Palestinian radical group Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip and which is behind the terrorist attacks on Israel on October 7.
“President Biden will make President Xi aware that Iran acting in an escalating and destabilizing manner that undermines stability throughout the Middle East is not in the interests of China or any other responsible country,” the president’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, outlined Biden’s plans on Monday.