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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Biden and Xi to seek to stabilize relations in California meeting

President Joe Biden, right, meets with President Xi Jinping of China in Bali, Indonesia, on Nov. 14, 2022. They plan to meet again while attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in San Francisco this week.

By Katie Rogers and Alexandra Stevenson

President Joe Biden and President Xi Jinping of China plan to meet in California on Wednesday for a discussion that Biden’s advisers say is meant to stabilize relations even as it features a host of topics on which the two fiercely competitive countries disagree.

The Biden administration, which formally announced the meeting late last week, said the two leaders would have the highly choreographed discussion as they attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in San Francisco, known as APEC.

In a call with reporters Last Thursday, two senior advisers to Biden said the meeting was intended to be wide-ranging, with Biden prepared to bring up issues including Taiwan, election interference, the war in Ukraine and the war between Israel and Hamas.

Taiwan, a self-ruled island claimed by China, is set to hold elections early next year, and one of the advisers said Biden would seek to “present” Xi with “clarity” — meaning that the United States expects Beijing not to interfere and is concerned that it might. Biden is also expected to warn Xi against interfering in U.S. elections.

The advisers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to preview the meeting, did not provide specifics on its location, citing security concerns.

The meeting will take place almost a year to the day after Biden and Xi met during the Group of 20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, another rigidly planned diplomatic affair that took place amid fears over rising Chinese aggression toward Taiwan and steep competition between Washington and Beijing over military and technology advances. The two have not spoken since, and the intervening year has severely tested relations.

A Chinese spy balloon that crossed over the United States before a U.S. fighter jet downed it off the coast of South Carolina set off a diplomatic crisis in February. And more recently, tensions have flared over matters such as Chinese espionage and U.S. restrictions on technology exports to China.

Strains remain and will be addressed, Biden’s advisers say, but this year, Chinese and American officials have also emphasized the importance of strengthening ties between the world’s two largest economies. The Biden administration has already sent several top officials — including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo — to China this year to try to make clear that while the United States wants to protect national security, it does not seek to sever economic ties.

Yellen echoed that position Friday, after two days of meetings with Vice Premier He Lifeng in San Francisco, where both were to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. Such a decoupling, she said, “would be damaging to both the U.S. and China and destabilizing for the world.” She added that she and Lifeng had agreed that their countries should strive for a healthy economic relationship.

On Thursday, China’s ambassador to the United States, Xie Feng, said in video remarks to a forum in Hong Kong that China wanted reassurances that “the U.S. does not seek to change China’s system, does not seek a new cold war, does not support Taiwan independence and has no intention to seek decoupling from China.”

“Sino-U.S. relations are still facing severe challenges, and there is still a long way to go to stabilize and improve relations,” Xie said at the event, the Hong Kong Forum on U.S.-China Relations.

Experts cautioned against expecting the meeting between Biden and Xi to produce any breakthroughs on thorny issues such as China’s military aggression in Taiwan, U.S. limits on the sales of advanced semiconductors to China or American concerns about China’s human rights record.

“There won’t be anything that will move the relationship in a different direction,” said Oriana Skylar Mastro, a fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University.

Outside of the meeting with Biden, Xi is expected to focus much of his time in California on showing leaders of American industry that his country is open for business. After he and Biden meet, Xi is expected to speak to top American business executives at a $2,000-a-plate dinner, part of a “CEO Summit” taking place on the sidelines of the main event.

Aside from issues of trade and competition, Biden is expected to broach the war in the Gaza Strip with Xi, officials said Thursday. Beijing has a warm trade and diplomatic relationship with Iran, a country that helps support Hamas and other militant groups in the Middle East, and Biden is expected to stress to Xi that the United States will respond to any expansion of the war caused by Iran.

Biden will also be monitoring developments in Washington as he navigates the meeting with Xi and engages with other leaders at APEC, a group of 21 countries that surround the Pacific Ocean. While Biden is on the West Coast, the federal government is set to inch closer to a shutdown.

House Republicans, so far, have been unable to coalesce around proposals to fund the government, and the current stopgap spending measure expires Nov. 17. White House officials have suggested that the president may cut his trip short if a shutdown looks likely, but on Thursday, they publicly downplayed that idea.

Asked about the possibility of tumult in Washington cutting into Biden’s trip, John Kirby, a White House spokesperson, told reporters, “Well, my goodness, we haven’t even loaded luggage on the plane.”

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