Thursday, December 1

Biden and Xi Prepare for Virtual Summit Amid Growing Tensions | Xi Jinping

Joe Biden and Xi Jinping will hold a virtual summit on Monday with the intention of halting, or at least slowing down, the downward spiral in US-China relations.

The two leaders have spoken twice by phone since Biden took office in January, but this video conference will be their most substantial discussion yet.

It comes days after the two countries surprised analysts by agreeing to boost climate cooperation in Glasgow. But it also comes at a time of growing friction over Taiwan, the most dangerous potential flash point between the two countries. On Tuesday, the People’s Liberation Army carried out the latest in a series of combat readiness exercises off the Taiwanese coast.

American accusations of repeated cyberattacks from China, deep divisions over human rights in the Xinjiang region, Hong Kong and Tibet, as well as persistent trade disputes have also contributed to the steady deterioration of relations.

The United States is frustrated by Chinese obstruction of multilateral investigations into the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic, and has been angered by pressure from the Chinese government on American companies to pressure Congress to withdraw legislation that Beijing does not. he likes it, as Reuters reported on Friday.

The stakes have risen due to the rapid expansion of China’s military capabilities, including its nuclear arsenal. According to the US, Beijing has tested a new weapon, a nuclear-capable hypersonic glider launched from orbit, and China is reported to be building at least 250 new silos for long-range missiles.

Expectations for the summit have been lowered. A joint statement is not likely, and the White House has indicated that Biden will not respond to questions from the press after the talks are over.

“In general, in both Washington and Beijing, the expectation of convergence is practically dead. Instead, the relationship has become more transactional, “said Scott Moore, director of China programs and strategic initiatives at the University of Pennsylvania.

“For Biden, he faces political challenges at home with the midterm elections looming. Therefore, it will likely face political restrictions in terms of taking any action that may be perceived or characterized as a significant concession to China, “said Moore.

“For Xi, his greatest vulnerability is on the economic front. That is why Beijing has shown its interest in advancing trade. Recent comments from officials in the Biden administration suggest that there is interest in getting involved in these issues, but again there are likely to be significant political restrictions. “

Both leaders will seek to limit the dangers of the rivalry getting out of control.

In a message to National Committee on Relations between the United States and China, Xi said the bilateral relationship is at a “critical historical juncture.”

“Both countries will benefit from cooperation and lose from confrontation. Cooperation is the only right option, ”Xi said in his statement.

In his message to the committee’s gala on November 9, Biden also noted a “turning point in history.”

“From addressing the Covid-19 pandemic to addressing the existential threat of the climate crisis, the relationship between the United States and China has global significance.”

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Biden would be “clear and candid” about America’s concerns, but would seek ways to “responsibly manage competition” between the world’s two largest economies and would also seek to “work together where our interests align. ” .

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Monday’s summit was a potentially pivotal event in efforts to improve the trajectory of bilateral relations.

“The two sides should meet halfway … ensuring that the meeting is smooth and successful, and push Sino-US relations back onto the path of healthy and stable development,” Wang said, according to a statement from the Ministry of Education. Foreign Relations of China.

Jet fighter
A record number of Chinese fighters carried out sorties into Taiwan’s air defense zone in October. Photograph: AP

Xi will seek to avoid moves to boycott the Winter Olympics in China this year, and is also expected to invite Biden to the games as a conciliatory gesture.

But Taiwan is likely to be at the top of Xi’s talking points, particularly after a series of steps the Biden administration has taken to elevate Taiwan’s status, which China sees as breaking from the one-China policy of Washington, recognizing the People’s Republic. as the only Chinese sovereign government.

“[The] Increasingly provocative actions by the United States still add to the uncertainty. The Taiwan issue will be covered, and China will issue a warning at the highest level not to bring the Taiwan issue to the brink of confrontation, “Lü Xiang, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the state agency. Global times.

Bonnie Glaser, director of the Asia Program at the US German Marshall Fund, said Beijing was concerned whether the Biden administration was really sticking to its one-China policy. “They want to hear more reassurance about what the United States will and will not do with Taiwan,” he said.

The US side will push for more routine contacts between defense and diplomatic establishments, but Xi is likely to resist any action that considers normalizing the US role in China’s immediate vicinity.

“It’s something that the Chinese have so far resisted a lot because they don’t want to give the US military a license to operate anywhere near their shores,” Glaser said.

On nuclear weapons control, China has so far resisted any approach to starting bilateral negotiations and has rejected Donald Trump’s attempts to start trilateral talks with Russia.

“Unfortunately, I don’t think it is going to be a big topic at the meeting. The United States has not proposed anything that China can talk about, and China does not like to negotiate outside the UN, “said Gregory Kulacki, China project manager at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“They could make some kind of vague statement about wanting to stop the nuclear arms race, but it seems unlikely that anything concrete will emerge.”

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