The Xi-Biden meeting and the positive expectations
Chinese President Xi Jinping, at the invitation of U.S. President Joe Biden, has arrived in San Francisco on Tuesday for a meeting between the two leaders, and to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders' Meeting. The imminent encounter between the two leaders is an occasion of immense consequence, echoing far beyond the boundaries of these two countries.
The Chinese and U.S. presidents, in their first face-to-face meeting in a year, are on the precipice of shaping the future and destiny of not just their own countries, but the world at large. The recent rounds of economic and trade discussions between the two countries have generated cause for optimism. The consensus against economic "decoupling" and the commitment to intensified communication are welcome signs, heralding the path of cooperation.
This dialogue is pivotal, as it marks an opportunity for both sides to gain a deeper, more realistic insight into each other's strategic intentions, paving the way to avert potential conflicts from spiraling into unmanageable crises.
Beijing has been consistently articulating its intent to engage in comprehensive and constructive discussions on issues of strategic and fundamental significance in shaping China-U.S. relations. One of the salient themes that is poised to command considerable scrutiny is the Taiwan question. China is ardently seeking to fortify understanding and collaboration while endeavoring to cultivate a more equitable lens through which to view the intricacies of the China-U.S. relationship.
Expectations are high, and many experts foresee positive outcomes of the Xi-Biden meeting. From enhancing people-to-people exchanges through increased flights and encouraging exchange students to the resumption of military-to-military communication, there is a spectrum of possibilities on the horizon.
The consensus against "decoupling" in recent economic and trade talks sends an unequivocal message to both our business communities – that high-level engagement between the world's two largest economies is being bolstered.
However, it is crucial to acknowledge that there are still areas where satisfaction remains elusive. Issues like sanctions against Chinese companies and the cancellation of punitive tariffs are yet to see progress. The road to substantial outcomes remains arduous and serves as a test of political acumen for both leaders.
Interdependence extends beyond economics and into ecological realms, making decoupling unlikely. Both countries should be engaged in a "cooperative rivalry," where the global challenges of climate change, pandemics, and other transnational issues necessitate collaboration. The issues at the forefront of the discussions are fraught with complexity.
While the meeting is not anticipated to yield groundbreaking announcements, it serves a critical purpose. It aims to navigate the contours of a strategic competitorship, manage differences, and ensure open channels of communication.
For obvious reasons, the Taiwan question, with its potential for escalating confrontation across the Taiwan Straits, will be one of the key points of discussions. The leaders will also deliberate on their understanding of each other's strategic intentions, seeking a more objective assessment. On a related note, the prospect of reestablishing military communication channels is on the agenda, a move that could prevent misunderstandings from escalating into crises.
While reflecting on the potential results of this meeting, it is essential to harken back to the groundwork established during the G20 Bali gathering in November 2022. The establishment of "guardrails" and reestablished lines of communication have already proven their worth. Looking forward, this meeting's most vital takeaway could be the further consolidation of bilateral ties and the ability to swiftly address any major issues that may arise in 2024, especially as the United States prepares for a tumultuous election season.
In these pivotal moments, the world watches, poised on the precipice of potential transformations that could shape our collective future. Both President Xi and President Biden carry a weighty responsibility that transcends their domestic constituencies, extending to the global stage. The journey ahead is fraught with complexities, yet it also presents openings for shared comprehension, collaboration and advancement.
(The writer Imran Khalid, a special commentator on current affairs for CGTN, is a freelance columnist on international affairs.)