Biden and Xi prepare for meeting
Washington Joe Biden and China’s Xi Jinping swallowed noodles together in Beijing. They exchanged profound thoughts on the meaning of America during the exchange of views on the Tibetan Plateau. They rushed to business leaders in the United States about developing a sincere respect for one another.
The US president has suspended his relationship with Xi as evidence of his sincere belief that good foreign policy begins with building strong personal relationships.
But as the two leaders prepare for their first presidential meeting on Monday, the turbulent relationship between the United States and China shows that the strength of one of Biden’s greatest strengths as a politician — the ability to communicate — has its limits.
said Matthew Goodman, who served as an advisor for Asia on the National Security Council of Barack Obama and the George W. Bush administration.
White House officials set low expectations for Monday’s virtual meeting: No major announcements expected and no plan for the usual joint statement by the two countries to eventually, according to administration officials.
The public warmth — Xi referred to Biden as his “old friend” when Biden visited China in 2013 while the then US vice president spoke of their “friendship” — has returned now that both men are heads of state. Biden was furious in June when a reporter asked him if he would pressure his old friend to cooperate with a World Health Organization investigation into the origins of the coronavirus.
“Let’s understand something: We know each other very well; we’re not old friends,” Biden said. “It’s just purely business.”
However, Biden believes that a face-to-face meeting – even a virtual meeting like the two leaders will take place on Monday night – has its value.
“He feels that the history of their relationship, having spent some time with him, allows him to be just as frank as it was in the past and will continue to be,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a preview of the meeting.
Biden and Xi, 78 and 68 respectively, first got to know each other on trips across the United States and China when they were vice presidents, interactions that the two leaders say have left a lasting impression.
More recently, there have been indications that there may be at least a partial thaw after the first nine months of the Biden administration marked by recriminations between the two sides and fruitless exchanges between the two presidents’ top advisers.
Last week, for example, the United States and China pledged at United Nations climate talks in Glasgow, Scotland, to increase their cooperation and accelerate action to curb climate-damaging emissions.
Monday’s meeting – the two leaders’ third engagement since Biden became president – comes amid rising tensions in the US-China relationship. The two had long phone calls in February and September where they discussed human rights, trade, the epidemic and other issues.
Biden has made it clear that he sees China as the greatest national security and economic competitor to the United States, and has attempted to reformulate American foreign policy to reflect this belief.
His administration has held Beijing responsible for perpetrating human rights abuses against ethnic minorities in northwest China, stifling pro-democracy efforts in Hong Kong and resisting global pressure to fully cooperate with investigations into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.
Tensions have also risen with the Chinese military carrying out an increasing number of sorties near the autonomous island of Taiwan, which Beijing considers part of its territory.
Chinese officials have indicated that the Taiwan issue will be the top priority of the talks. Biden has made clear that his administration will stick to the longstanding US “one China” policy, which recognizes Beijing but allows informal and defense ties with Taipei. And the Chinese military forces conducted exercises last week near Taiwan in response to a visit by a delegation from the US Congress to the island.
Other US presidents believe that bonding with a geopolitical adversary can be a good foreign policy strategy. George W. Bush faced ridicule after his first meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin when he claimed that he “looked the man in the eyes” and “was able to feel his soul”. Bush continued to host the Russian leader at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, and brought him to his father’s home in Kennebunkport, Maine, where the 43rd and 41st Russian presidents hunted.
In the end, Putin frustrated Bush, and the relationship broke off after Russia’s invasion of neighboring Georgia in 2008.
Donald Trump has gone from belittling the North Korean leader as a “rocket man” by Kim Jong Un to declaring that they “fell in love” in an exchange of letters as the US president unsuccessfully tried to persuade Kim to give up the regime’s nuclear weapons program.
Biden’s personal approach to foreign policy is based in part on the fact that he has been on the international scene for the past half century, as author Evan Osnos notes in the biography “Joe Biden: Life, Running, and What Matters Now.”
“You can take him down to Kazakhstan or Bahrain, it doesn’t matter – he’ll find some of the Joe Blues he met 30 years ago who runs the place now,” Biden’s adviser Julian Smith told Osnos.
Some senior Biden administration officials are speculating that with Beijing planning to host the Winter Olympics in February and Xi preparing to be approved by Communist Party leaders to serve for a third five-year term next October — unprecedented in modern Chinese history — there is a lot of The reason why the Chinese leader is looking to stabilize the relationship in the near term, according to a person familiar with the administration’s thinking. The individual insisted on anonymity to discuss private deliberations.
Slowing economic growth and a brewing housing crisis loom for Beijing. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned in an interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that aired Sunday, that deepening Beijing’s problems could have “global consequences.”
Meanwhile, Biden, who has seen his poll numbers dwindle at home amid concerns about the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, inflation and supply chain problems, is looking to find a measure of balance on his most pressing foreign policy issues.
Biden would have preferred a personal meeting with Xi, but Xi has not left China since before the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The virtual meeting was proposed after Biden said during a September phone call with the Chinese leader that he would like to be able to see Xi again.
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