• Sunday, December 03, 2023


Biden and Xi discuss Taiwan, fentanyl at bilateral meet

By: Kimberly Rodrigues

US president Joe Biden and China’s Xi Jinping engaged in a four-hour meeting on Wednesday (15), addressing topics spanning military tensions to drug trafficking.

Biden welcomed the Chinese leader at the Filoli estate, a country house and gardens about 30 miles (48 km) south of San Francisco, ahead of a summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum.

Here are the key issues discussed.

The two leaders had a “substantial” discussion on Taiwan, with Xi telling Biden that Taiwan was the biggest, most dangerous issue facing the two superpowers, a senior US official told reporters.

The Chinese leader said that China had no plans for military action against Taiwan in coming years, but also discussed conditions under which force could be used, the official said.

Biden said he “stressed the importance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.” He also asked Xi to respect Taiwan’s electoral process, the US official said.

Xi responded: “Look, peace is … all well and good but at some point we need to move towards resolution more generally,” the US official said.

Military Talks
Beijing said the two leaders agreed to resume military contacts that China severed after then-House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan in August 2022.

Biden made a “very clear request” that both countries institutionalise the military-to-military dialogues, and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin will meet his Chinese counterpart when that person is named, a senior US official said.

Leader To Leader Talks
Biden said he and Xi agreed to high-level communications.

“He and I agreed that each one of us can pick up the phone call directly and we’ll be heard immediately,” Biden told reporters after the meeting.

Cooperation And Conciliation
Beijing’s report of the meeting, via the Communist Party-controlled Chinese state media, emphasised the need for more cooperation, dialogue and respect. China and the United States should set an example for other countries, Xi told Biden, according to Chinese media, and promote cooperation on trade, agriculture, climate change and artificial intelligence.

An official briefed on the talks said Beijing was also seeking a show of respect from the trip.

Biden and Xi agreed to cooperate on addressing the source of the opioid fentanyl, a leading cause of drug overdoses in the United States, the US official said.

Under the agreement, China will go directly after specific chemical companies that make fentanyl precursors.

The two leaders also discussed the unfolding crisis in the Middle East, with Biden asking China to weigh in with Iran and urge it to avoid steps that could be seen as provocative, the senior US official told reporters.

Chinese officials told the U.S. side that they had engaged in discussions with Iran on regional risks.

Artificial Intelligence
The two leaders also discussed artificial intelligence (AI)and agreed that AI was used in military or nuclear operations, it created real risks.

The senior US official said both sides were “very much focused” on practices regarding AI that could be dangerous or destabilising, but not ready for any mutual declaration.

‘Partner And Friend’
As concerns mount over the country’s slowing economy, president Xi Jinping told US business leaders on Wednesday, China is “ready to be a partner and friend of the United States.”

If one country sees the other as a main competitor and most consequential geopolitical challenge, “this will only lead to wrong policymaking, misguided actions and unwanted results,” he told a dinner on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.

Xi’s remarks in San Francisco came hours after his highly anticipated talks with Biden, where both men pledged to reduce tensions as they met for the first time in a year.

The two sides announced a host of agreements after talks, starting with the reactivation of a high-level military hotline.

“We should build more bridges and pave more roads for people-to-people interactions,” Xi told an audience of around 400 business leaders, government officials and academics.

“We must not create various obstacles or create a chilling effect,” he added.

Among those on a guest list seen by AFP were Apple CEO Tim Cook, Laurence Fink of BlackRock and Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla.

Xi’s comments at the event organised by the US-China Business Council and National Committee on US-China Relations were being closely watched, given worries about China’s tighter business oversight and bilateral tensions.

Foreign business confidence in China hit its lowest point in years according to US and European enterprise lobbies in September, with US firms increasingly looking to shift investment away.

– ‘Open for business’ –

“Xi is interested in signaling that despite geopolitical tensions — especially around the high-tech industries — China remains open for business,” said Lindsay Gorman, senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States.

But, she said, “there is a lot more skepticism” from US firms than 10 years ago, even if some may be eager to overcome tensions.

Thibault Denamiel, associate fellow at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), noted that Chinese tech giant Huawei unexpectedly unveiled a new smartphone — involving advanced 7 nanometer technology — during US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo’s visit to China this year.

It appears that Chinese authorities are sending a dual message, that they can weather geopolitical headwinds such as US chip controls, while encouraging foreign businesses to keep coming, he added.

Xi said on Wednesday that China wants to invite 50,000 young Americans to the country on exchange and study programmes over the next five years, and that Beijing was ready to further cooperation on panda conservation, though no new animal loans were promised.

The Chinese leader, who recently met California Governor Gavin Newsom, said he would welcome visits from regional politicians and members of Congress.

But in a reminder of the still-sticky state of China-US ties, Mike Gallagher, a Wisconsin Republican who chairs the bipartisan House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party, lashed out at the attendance at the meeting by senior US business leaders.

It is “unconscionable” for US companies to pay thousands for a welcome dinner hosted by the Communist Party, he wrote in a letter this week, given allegations that they have overseen a “genocide” against people in China’s northwestern Xinjiang region.

Gallagher added that executives “must recognise that the reality of doing business in China today includes the increased risk of arbitrary detentions, exit bans, and raids by the Chinese intelligence services,” urging firms to reduce the risks they face.


Related Stories