Talks between Biden and Xi lead to little more than a promise to keep talking | ET REALITY


President Biden said Wednesday that four hours of discussion with President Xi Jinping of China had led to two important agreements, on reducing fentanyl production and on military-to-military communications.

But both American and Chinese accounts of their first meeting in a year indicated little progress on the issues that have brought the two nations to the brink of conflict.

Emerging from the talks and a brief walk with Xi on the grounds of a mansion south of San Francisco, Biden told reporters that the conversation had been the “most constructive and productive” between the two men since Biden had come. to the office. The agreements they announced were modest, however, and their most important commitments were to keep talking and pick up the phone in times of crisis.

On one of the critical issues, the prohibition of the use of artificial intelligence in the command and control systems of its nuclear arsenals, no formal set of discussions was established. Instead, Biden aides said Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser, would continue speaking with Wang Yi, China’s top foreign affairs official.

Biden went out of his way to show respect for Xi and greeted him at the entrance to Filoli, a century-old mansion with gardens that was chosen as a private place for the leaders of the world’s two most important military and technological institutions. and the economic superpowers to talk. Xi also appeared accommodating when he arrived, telling Biden: “Planet Earth is big enough” for both superpowers. He told Biden that their countries were very different but should be “fully capable of overcoming the differences.”

Those are the usual niceties in diplomatic encounters between the two countries, especially in recent months, when Chinese leaders have begun to worry about American investors fleeing the country.

But at the end of a news conference Wednesday night, after Xi’s departure, Biden was asked if he still considered Xi a dictator. Biden had used the word, to China’s fury, earlier in the year.

“Well, look, it is,” Biden said. “I mean, he’s a dictator in the sense that he’s a guy who runs a country that’s communist.”

Biden’s advisers had gone to great lengths in recent days to dampen expectations about the meeting, including by arguing that China’s economic downturn has, for the first time, put a Chinese leader at a disadvantage in his relations with the United States. But according to American and Chinese accounts, the leaders largely repeated old talking points about Taiwan, even as Xi expressed concern that the island’s upcoming elections could lead to talk of independence, one of the “red lines” that Chinese officials have plotted. said could force them to take military action.

The leaders agreed to resume military-to-military communications, which China had cut off after Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan last year, when she was House speaker. Such communication commitments – to achieve transparency and avoid collisions and crises – have been made before, and Biden argued that military channels needed to remain open to avoid potential clashes. It is unclear how Xi responded.

They addressed the issue of fentanyl, a powerful drug that has killed hundreds of thousands of Americans. Biden later outlined the outline of a deal that would commit Beijing to regulating ingredients in fentanyl. But China has made similar commitments before.

The two men also discussed the technology race between their countries, which is at the center of their increasingly bitter competition. Xi complained about increasing US restrictions on exports of advanced computer chips, which are critical to China’s technological ambitions. These include the development of advanced weaponry, surveillance products and artificial intelligence programs.

Xi maintained that Biden’s real goal was to strangle China’s industrial competitiveness, a senior administration official said. Biden responded, the official said, saying he would not provide any technology that China could use for military purposes.

“We are in a competitive relationship, China and the United States,” Biden said at his news conference. “But my responsibility is to make this rational and manageable so that it does not result in conflict. That’s what it’s about. That’s what it’s about. Find a place where we can come together and find mutual interests.”

In fact, there are far fewer areas of collaboration than just a few years ago, when meetings between Chinese leaders and American presidents often led to joint action. On Wednesday, there was no discussion of North Korea, whose arsenal is now much larger than in the era of US-China cooperation, and Biden’s effort to convince Xi to help moderate Iran’s influence was met with no success. an immediate agreement.

The two leaders did not issue a joint statement. There seemed to have been only a brief discussion of the most aggressive actions that have come close to triggering disasters: the dozens of Chinese interceptions of American planes that, according to the United States, fly in international airspace, or the clashes in disputed waters off to the Philippines and the Philippines. South China Sea.

When Biden mentioned accelerated Chinese military activity in Taiwan since Pelosi’s visit, Xi responded by asking why the United States was arming the island and calling for an end to those arms sales. In fact, the United States is likely to accelerate those sales, based on lessons learned from the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Biden, reporting on his discussions, made no mention of China’s supply of technology (but not weapons) to Russia to continue that war. He also did not discuss China’s partnership with Russia, although a year ago he said he doubted it would prosper.

There was some discussion, attendees say, about the rapid growth of China’s nuclear arsenal. But Xi’s government has refused to engage in nuclear arms control talks, insisting it must first reach parity with the US and Russian stockpiles.

When Xi began the day by stopping at the Filoli estate, he arrived in a Chinese-made limousine with no license plate. In somewhat stiff and carefully choreographed remarks, he and Biden offered the usual assurances that they could accomplish a lot if they worked together, but alluded to darker alternatives if they failed.

“For two big countries like China and the United States, turning their backs on each other is not an option,” said Xi, whose own private speeches to his party faithful and generals have painted a portrait of two countries that may well be headed for a collision. He added that conflict and confrontation have “unbearable consequences for both sides.”

Biden frequently referred to past meetings with Xi dating back 15 years, but resisted the temptation to describe the two as old friends, something he used to do regularly. “I value our conversation because I believe it is paramount that you and I understand each other clearly,” she said, “from leader to leader, without misconceptions or miscommunications.”

“We have to make sure that competition does not turn into conflict,” he said.

The interactions between the two leaders at Filoli had been carefully planned for months. Senior Chinese officials had discussed them in meetings with Biden’s most trusted aides, including Sullivan and Antony J. Blinken, the secretary of state. Both men were seated at the boardroom-style table set up in the property’s ballroom, with Biden flanked by Blinken and Janet L. Yellen, the Treasury secretary.

Xi arrived at a rare moment of apparent weakness. After decades of breakneck growth, China’s economy has slowed. Later on Wednesday, he met with American CEOs to make the case for increasing investment in China, which has begun to decline. This is partly due to China’s bleaker economic outlook, but also because the country has begun to prosecute companies that disclose Chinese economic data or conduct “due diligence” on the performance of Chinese companies before they invest. external people.

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