Biden’s objective in his meeting with Xi: avoid a spiral of conflict | ET REALITY


When President Biden meets with President Xi Jinping of China at a lush estate on the outskirts of Silicon Valley on Wednesday, his main goal will be simple: find a way to prevent increasingly bitter competition with China from descending into conflict. .

For two leaders who have agreed on very little as their nations have plunged into their worst relationship in four decades, there have been signs of how they will try to move toward some semblance of an agreement. A senior administration official said they are expected to reach a deal that would commit Beijing to regulating components of fentanyl, the drug that has caused a devastating opioid epidemic in the United States. But China has made similar commitments before.

They are likely to announce a new forum to discuss how to keep AI programs away from nuclear command and control, while the United States denies China the advanced chips it needs to develop and train AI programs. And they will likely discuss the resumption of military-to-military communications, which China cut off after Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan last year, when she was House speaker. But there have been periods of military-to-military contact since the George W. Bush administration.

The interactions between the two leaders when they meet at the lush Filoli estate, a historic garden house just northwest of the Stanford campus, have been carefully choreographed. Senior Chinese officials have discussed them in meetings with Biden’s most trusted aides, including Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser, and Antony J. Blinken, the secretary of state.

But many thorny issues remain complicating the discussions, including some that Biden’s advisers have said he intends to raise, such as the wars in Ukraine and Gaza and the upcoming elections in Taiwan, a self-governing island that China claims as its own. .

In briefing after briefing, administration officials have tried to lower expectations about the kind of concrete commitments that used to surround such summits, saying that the mere fact that the leaders of the world’s two largest economies, and the more powerful armies, are communicating again is in itself a sign of progress.

Graham Allison, a Harvard professor and author of a book that asks whether the two countries are destined for war, wrote in The National Interest that the meeting would summarize what he called “two contradictory but nonetheless inescapable facts.”

“First, the United States and China will be the fiercest rivals history has ever seen,” he wrote. “Second, the very survival of each nation requires a certain degree of cooperation on the part of the other.”

Biden arrived in San Francisco on Tuesday afternoon with the city closed for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, known as APEC, a group of 21 countries surrounding the Pacific Ocean. (He sent Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen to meet with Xi when she landed in San Francisco on Tuesday night.)

Biden’s only public event on Tuesday was a fundraiser alongside Vice President Kamala Harris, during which he suggested that economic headwinds in China, along with the Biden administration’s work to build a network of partners in the Indo -Pacific to counter Chinese ambition. , had brought Xi to the negotiating table.

“President Xi is another example of how the restoration of American leadership in the world is taking hold,” Biden told the crowd. “You have real problems, folks.”

It was not the first time Biden referred to China’s economic slowdown, and it was only five months ago that he referred to him as a “dictator,” a comment his advisers quickly sought to back up.

No joint statement will be issued on Wednesday to try to soften such tough talks. U.S. officials say each government will give its own version of the discussions.

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