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Xi-Biden Meeting: From Bali to San Francisco

14 November 2023 18:30 (UTC+04:00)
Xi-Biden Meeting: From Bali to San Francisco

By Dr Mehmood Ul Hassan Khan

The White House’s confirmation of the Xi-Biden meeting in San Francisco next week has become a hot topic in the international media, which has also swayed social media around the globe. Since this meeting has strategic significance in terms of the revival of socio-economic relations, the removal of consequential geopolitical barriers, and converging geostrategic trans-regional spheres, hopefully both leaders will try to stabilise relations to achieve mutually beneficial propositions.

The objective of the meeting will likely act as a catalyst for further negotiations. The upcoming meeting comes about a year after the two leaders met in person during the G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, last year.

Since neither the US nor China have intentionally shared any agenda with the media, it is impulsively flooded with lots of guesses, numerous speculations, rumours, and conspiracy theories. However, both leaders will likely discuss the crucial issue of restoring a U.S.-China military hotline to prevent any escalations between the two countries. Regional experts are optimistic about the outcome of the meeting, which will yield a resumption of high-level military communications and an agreement to address the fentanyl crisis.

It expects that matters pertaining to the U.S.-China bilateral relationship, macro-economic stability, climate change, artificial intelligence, the strategic importance of maintaining open lines of communication, and a range of regional and global issues, i.e., the continued Russia-Ukraine conflict, the Israel-Palestine war, and moreover, matters of disagreement, i.e., Taiwan and the South China Sea, will also be discussed because both countries have a shared interest in global stability and a stable global economy, creating immense opportunities and reimbursements for both sides. In addition, maintaining an open dialogue with China will gain Biden's support from the US public.

Being a responsive player in international cooperation and global governance, China signed a declaration at the AI Safety Summit, hosted by the UK at Bletchley Park, signalling a commitment to an international approach to AI and its use earlier in November.

Naturally, after the Bali summit last year and the meeting of two leaders, hopes were high that the two countries could fix their faulty lines. But conflicting realities and false and fake propaganda about the balloon controversy further delayed Secretary of State Antony Blinken's planned trip to Beijing.
Afterward, Chinese openness, transparency, and diplomatic wisdom encouraged the rise of political wisdom and bilateral diplomatic connectivity in Biden’s administration. Since then, a series of meetings between top U.S. and Chinese officials have paved the way for next week’s meeting.

In this connection, Blinken travelled to Beijing in June and met with Xi to try to restore confidence between the two sides. The National Security Adviser, Jake Sullivan, recently met with China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, in Washington to further regularise open channels of communication and dialogue. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Special Climate Envoy John Kerry, CIA Director William Burns, and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimando tripped to China in the last six months. The two sides have also launched consultations on arms control, maritime concerns, and debt issues which good omen for both countries. Hopefully, this meeting could cap tension levels and offer some stability for further negotiations.

Obviously, the timing of this meeting is crucial. Both countries are apparently in search of mutual consensus, concessions, and accommodations to strike a balance amid strategic competition in an increasingly precarious world. It is indispensable for the U.S. and the West at large to acknowledge that China plays a significant role in determining the course of the relationship and global stability and aims for a workable.

Economically and financially, there is a lot at stake for the international corporations and markets, corporate giants including Apple, Nike, and Caterpillar are heavily reliant on the Chinese market to drive revenue and growth, while China remains the world’s manufacturing epicenter. Thus success of this meeting would be a stimulator for the multinational companies’ growth and trans-regional marketing niches.

In summary, all global stakeholders, countries, communities, investors, and corporations are eager to see US-China cooperation in addressing a range of global issues such as nuclear arms control, climate change, and the regulation of artificial intelligence.

Both countries should follow the philosophy of accommodation that can establish the required boundaries to prevent competition from escalating into conflict, while actively seeking avenues for cooperation on pressing global challenges.

In this connection, the US should discard the role of the ultimate decider and recognise China’s substantial role and responsibility in shaping the intricate dynamics of this relationship.
Nevertheless, the Xi-Biden meeting during the APEC Summit offers an ideal setting for both countries to rekindle the spirit of collaboration and cooperation, reminiscent of the framework for cooperation that emerged from the previous year’s G-20 meeting in Bali.

The summit offers an opportunity to inject stability into an increasingly precarious world. Both nations must acknowledge their common challenges and seek new areas of cooperation while considering the priorities of allies, companies, and investors who demand a balanced and nuanced approach to U.S.-China relations.

Last but not least, the San Francisco meeting should rest bilateral strategic priorities, strike a balance between competition and cooperation, and set a new path ideally free from all false and fake propaganda for mutually achieving a prosperous, progressive, stable, and sustainable world and economy. It should also help in addressing various global challenges rather than exploiting them.

The author, Dr Mehmood Ul Hassan Khan, is an executive director at the Centre for South & International Studies (CSAIS) in Islamabad.
He is also a regional expert on China, CPEC, & BRI.

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