SAN FRANCISCO — President Joe Biden finally had a candid face-to-face meeting with China’s President Xi Jinping.
His next challenge will be to find a way to distance the United States from a military conflict with China over the countries’ sharp ideological differences and hold Mr. Xi accountable for his commitments at the summit.
Biden said at a press conference after the meeting that he trusts Xi to take promised steps to reduce the distribution and production of the synthetic drug fentanyl, which has been implicated in a record number of overdose deaths in the United States. said. Mr. Biden said he would seek verification, but said he was reassured by Mr. Xi’s assurance that he would answer the call.
“We have our differences. He has different views than I do about a lot of things. But he was straight,” Biden said of his opponent.
“This is important progress,” he said of the agreement to continue dialogue.
John Kirby, the Strategic Communications Coordinator at the National Security Council, told reporters Thursday that during his meeting with Biden, President Xi said he did not want to see Americans die from fentanyl and that exports should be minimized. He said he had personally promised to rein in the situation.
“So we’re very hopeful that this will have very practical and important effects over the long term,” Kirby said.
Fentanyl, phones, and pandas
President Xi has pledged to have Chinese law enforcement crack down on the transport of chemicals used by Latin American cartels to make drugs and to restore high-level communications between the U.S. and Chinese militaries. Experts and lawmakers are cautiously optimistic.
But they worry that tactical détente could prove temporary and superficial as Mr. Xi seeks to shore up confidence abroad in his country’s struggling economy.
Colleen Cottle, a former Central Intelligence Agency analyst and deputy director of the Atlantic Council’s Global China Hub, said the Biden-Xi summit does not signal a “long-term warming of the situation.” He said that there is a possibility that Mr. Xi’s resolve will become even stronger. achieve his country’s military and technological ambitions.
“Deep down, President Xi is probably very unhappy that he had to continue to rely on the United States and had to go to this meeting,” she said.
The summit between Mr. Xi and Mr. Biden took place just hours before Mr. Biden was to address CEOs of American companies at a dinner in San Francisco, where the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Council was being held.President Xi hinted at the dinner that more pandas may be sent to the US
He called the bears “messengers of friendship between the Chinese and American peoples” and said new pandas may be sent to California.
“I heard that many Americans, especially children, were very sad to say goodbye to the pandas and went to the zoo to see them off,” Xi said.
The idea of China leasing additional pandas to the U.S. “is being done in the hope that this will bring in more foreign investment or that it will put investors’ minds at ease,” Cottle said. Ta.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Ben Cardin (D-Md.) said in an interview that when it comes to dominating the global economy, China cannot be expected to play by the rules without any guardrails. Ta.
But he said there was a “good chance” that Xi would resume military-to-military communications and follow through on his pledge to slow the flow of fentanyl.
“Mr. Xi is very strategic. He has a game plan. And he uses every opportunity to advance his game plan,” Cardin said. “If he believes it’s in his interest and what he’s trying to accomplish, he’ll keep his promise. He’s not making a promise with the idea that he won’t fulfill it. think.”
The Trump administration also struck a deal with China on fentanyl that was intended to substantially curb overdose deaths, but it did not have the intended effect.
Rep. Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said he was “very skeptical” about Biden’s fentanyl deal. But he praised his promise to restore communication between Chinese generals and U.S. military officials as a “very good outcome.”
“I think a military-to-military channel would be helpful if it were possible,” said the Republican lawmaker and frequent critic of Biden.
Is conflict inevitable?
Beijing has become increasingly aggressive against US allies in the region, including Taiwan and the Philippines, where democratic elections are scheduled for January. Just last week, Chinese ships pursued and surrounded a Philippine ship in the South China Sea, an action the United States condemned as harassment.
After meeting with Xi at a secluded mansion on the outskirts of San Francisco on Wednesday, Biden stressed that relations had not yet escalated into conflict and that Xi fully understood the consequences of conflict. He said he was confident.
He also said he warned Xi against interfering in Taiwan’s elections.
After the meeting, Chinese state media reported that Mr. Xi made it clear to Mr. Biden, “China will achieve reunification, and nothing can be prevented from doing so,” and urged him to halt military aid to Taiwan. Mr. Xi also pressed Mr. Biden to declare that the United States does not support Taiwan’s secession and independence.
Former Ambassador to China Gary Locke said the United States and China are not necessarily on a military collision course.
“Unstoppable could mean 30 years from now, 20 years from now, 15 years from now, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it will be done by force,” Locke said.
Locke, who served as ambassador to China and U.S. commerce secretary during the Obama administration, said there was no expectation of a hard-and-fast deal from the talks. But the leaders needed to discuss their differences and “bring them out into the open.”
“Very dangerous situation”
Kirby said Biden made it clear to Xi that the United States does not support Taiwan’s independence. However, a White House spokesperson said the United States would not stop providing arms to Taiwan that could be used to defend itself if Taipei was attacked.
Biden approved sending $345 million in arms to Taiwan over the summer. In his emergency spending request last month, he asked Congress for $2 billion in security assistance to partners in the Indo-Pacific region to thwart acts of aggression. The funding request did not specifically mention Taiwan, but lawmakers have said the money would be used primarily for the island.
Referring to China’s provocations, Cardin said: “Any forceful or military action is completely unacceptable.” “And I think we’ll see Congress take some steps in the coming weeks to emphasize the importance of Taiwan being protected from such a potential invasion.”
The United States has said that China is preparing to have the military capability to invade Taiwan by 2027. McCall said he believed that schedule could be “accelerated” depending on the outcome of Taiwan’s general election in January.
“It could happen within the next year,” McCall warned.
Beyond democracy and human rights concerns, that would be a problem for the United States, he said, because Taiwan produces more than 90 percent of the world’s most advanced microchips.
“We are in a very dangerous situation,” the Texas congressman said.