Biden and Xi hash out economic rivalry at rare talks

Xi and Biden held a 4-hour discussion amid global tensions. They agreed on some fronts, like restarting military talks, but maintained divergent views on others, like China-Taiwan tensions

Biden hosted Xi at a secluded estate outside San Francisco, where the APEC summit is being held. (DW)
Biden hosted Xi at a secluded estate outside San Francisco, where the APEC summit is being held. (DW)


Chinese President Xi Jinping had a rare face-to-face meeting with US President Joe Biden on Wednesday.

The two leaders met outside of San Francisco for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.

Biden said the purpose of the meeting was "to understand each other."

"As always, there's no substitute to face-to-face discussions," he said, adding that he and Xi "haven't always agreed" in the past.

Following the four-hour meeting, Biden said talks with Xi made "real progress."

"I value the conversation I had today with President Xi," Biden said on X, formerly Twitter. "And today, we made real progress.

Greater communications at military level, AI

Biden and Xi agreed to restore some military-to-military communications between their armed forces at a time when unprofessional incidents between the two nations' ships and aircraft have spiked.

Xi said after the meeting that he and Biden agreed to resume high-level military dialogues on the basis of equity and respect, according to a statement released by Xinhua state news agency.

The leaders also agreed to set up joint government talks on the use of artificial intelligence, as well as a working group on counternarcotics cooperation, Xinhua said.

At the opening of the talks, Biden said the two leaders must ensure that "competition does not lead to conflict."

Xi later told Biden that "planet Earth is big enough for both countries to succeed." He said that protectionism has weighed on the global economy.

Xi said China did not seek to "surpass or unseat the United States" and stressed that "the United States should not scheme to suppress and contain China."

The leaders' first meeting since November 2022 was held far from the APEC summit at Filoli estate, a venue miles outside San Francisco, chosen for its security, serenity and remoteness.

Taiwan biggest issue in ties, Xi tells Biden

A senior US official told reporters after the meeting that Xi told Biden Taiwan is the biggest issue is US-China ties.

The official quoted Xi as saying China's preference was for peaceful reunification with Taiwan but went on to talk about conditions in which force could be used.

China continues to claim the island of Taiwan as its own territory. The US acknowledges China's position on Taiwan but does not take a position on Taiwan's status.

"The US side should... stop arming Taiwan, and support China's peaceful reunification," Xi told Biden, according to a readout from China's Foreign Ministry.

Xi was trying to indicate that China is not preparing for a massive invasion of Taiwan, but that does not change the US approach, the official said.

What else was on the agenda?

White House national security spokesperson John Kirby earlier listed a number of topics that Biden intended to bring up with Xi at the meeting, which marked the Chinese leader's first time in the United States since 2017.

That included "tensions in the Taiwan Strait" and the human rights situation faced by Uyghurs in Xinjiang province, Kirby had said on Wednesday.

Kirby previously said the two leaders would likely also discuss other geopolitical issues such as North Korea's missile tests, Russia's invasion of Ukraine and Israel's conflict with Hamas, which the US and other governments categorize as a terrorist organization.

Other issues up for discussion include jointly addressing climate change, managing the growth of artificial intelligence and curbing the flow of fentanyl.

On Tuesday, on the eve of the meeting, Biden walked back previous rhetoric about an economic "decoupling" from China.

"We're not trying to decouple from China. What we're trying to do is change the relationship for the better," Biden said

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Published: 16 Nov 2023, 9:13 AM