US officials say the virtual meeting held by President BidenJoe BidenBiden reiterates his commitment to ‘one China’ policy towards Taiwan in talks with Xi Biden raises human rights issues with China’s Xi in four-hour meeting Biden, Xi holds ‘frank’ discussion amid high tensions MORE and Chinese President Xi Jinping was not on Monday about easing tensions between the two countries.
But the day after Monday night’s nearly four-hour meeting, which lasted longer than expected, it was hard to escape the idea that the talks hadn’t at least served as a moment to reconnect the lines of communication between the two governments, already fighting. to Taiwan, China’s treatment of minorities and the coronavirus, among many other issues.
“I think the meeting will bring the temperature down a bit in terms of…the heated rhetoric we’ve seen from both sides,” said David Sacks, an expert on US-China ties at the United States. Council on Foreign Relations. “I don’t see it leading to a new trajectory or reset of any kind in the relationship.”
There were no major breakthroughs during the meeting, but White House officials stressed the importance of the talks in themselves. The talks followed a surprising development last week, with the US and China agreeing on a joint pledge to tackle climate change at the COP26 summit in Glasgow.
That joint promise paved the way for the virtual bilateral meeting.
“There is no substitute for direct, leader-to-leader engagement to avoid miscommunication about our purpose and motives, our policies and, of course, to provide direction to our respective governments,” the White House national security adviser said. Jake SullivanJake SullivanBiden raises human rights issues with China’s Xi at four-hour Biden meeting, Xi holds ‘frank’ discussion amid high tensions overnight Defense and national security – presented by Boeing – Major Russian weapons test stirs tensions MORE during comments at the Brookings Institution Tuesday.
Biden told reporters in New Hampshire that his administration will set up four separate working groups to maintain a dialogue with China on “a range of issues”.
Sullivan indicated that there would be follow-up talks on global energy supply, climate change and Taiwan.
Biden, who is under pressure from both Republicans and Democrats to be tough on Beijing, raised controversial issues such as Taiwan and human rights, the White House said.
But he also stressed the need for the US and China to work together on pressing global issues such as curbing climate change, beating the coronavirus pandemic and restoring the Iran nuclear deal.
Despite the tensions, the engagement between Biden and Xi seemed agreeable – a departure from months in which both countries have tickled each other.
Just two weeks ago, Biden sharply chided Xi for skipping the United Nations climate summit in Glasgow, predicting that doing so would diminish Beijing’s global influence.
Using his personal touch during the meeting, Biden mentioned at the outset that he and Xi spent time together in China when both were vice presidents.
Xi greeted Biden as his “old friend,” for which Biden thanked him, despite the White House’s insistence that Biden does not consider the Chinese leader a friend.
The “respectful and heartfelt” talk was a shift from previous attempts by the Biden administration to open a dialogue with Chinese officials.
A first meeting in Alaska among officials including Sullivan and the Secretary of State Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenBiden raises human rights issues with China’s Xi at four-hour Biden meeting, Xi holds ‘frank’ discussion amid high tensions Republicans call on dozens of Biden officials to testify about Afghanistan MORE was marred by allegations by the Chinese that the US was bullying other countries after Sullivan said the relationship would be one of “strong competition”.
Since those early talks, China has become more aggressive in flying military aircraft over Taiwan and has tested a hypersonic missile that caught the attention of US defense officials. Beijing has also hampered efforts by the US and global groups to learn more about the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Biden administration has labeled China’s treatment of Muslim Uyghurs in the Xinjiang region as “genocide” and could launch a “diplomatic boycott” of the Winter Olympics in China early next year, something that would heighten tensions.
There are also lingering economic tensions dating back to the Trump administration, which imposed tariffs in an escalating trade war, most of which is still in effect today.
With so much at stake, experts said the fact that Biden and Xi were able to sit and talk for four hours could in itself be considered a step forward.
“I think it was a major turning point. We have a lot of differences between us, and the US and China have a lot of differences between them. The leaders need to talk to each other about these things,” said Matt Goodman, senior vice president of economics at the United Nations. Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“In retrospect, it may be seen as something more important than people see it overnight,” added Goodman, who worked in the Obama administration.
Sullivan said on Tuesday that both countries agreed to intensify their engagement with Taiwan, which officials said was a topic of extensive discussion during the virtual meeting. Biden reiterated the government’s commitment to a “one China” policy and reminded Xi that as a senator, he voted in favor of the Taiwan Relations Act, a law requiring the US to provide Taiwan with weapons for its defense, officials said.
Michael O’Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said the meeting would reduce the chances of the two countries going to war over Taiwan.
“The number one priority is to reduce the likelihood of war over Taiwan,” O’Hanlon said. “I think he succeeded, at least to the extent that misconception could have been a driver as opposed to anything else.”