Biden and Xi Jinping’s first in person summit: Implications
Presidents Joe Biden and Xi Jinping met in Bali for their first in person meeting on 14 November 2022.
Since 2017, US-China relations have undergone a rapid deterioration. The rise of China is viewed with a sense of trepidation in the US, where both the democratic and republican parties are bent on stymying the rise of China.
The pivot to Asia of the Obama days has assumed a more dangerous dimension with an array of US actions such as the introduction of the Indo- Pacific Quad; the Australia, UK, US (AUKUS) military alliance; and a host of restrictions relating to trade, economy and technology including the most recent ban on the sale of advanced chips to China.
The US views China’s economic and military advancement as a threat to its primacy. The Chinese actions in and around the South China Sea, the East China Sea and proliferation of tensions on the Taiwan question, among others, are seen as matters of utmost concern.
In short, the disruption of supply chains, rising protectionist trends, deglobalization together with the notion of democracy versus autocracy are changing the context of international relations.
The Bali meeting was about ‘responsibly managing’ the strategic competition with China. A key outcome was the decision to work out the principles guiding China-US relations on the basis of common understandings already in place and to strive for early agreement. This pertains to the notion of setting up guard rails to relations.
The competition between the two sides will continue and impose a burden principally on regional states, who desire close relations with both.
The US underscored its resolve to compete ‘vigorously’ with China by investing sources of strength at home and aligning efforts with allies and partners around the world. Biden stated that this competition should not veer into conflict and both should maintain open lines of communication.
Xi Jinping stated that the two sides should explore the right way to get along with each other in the new era, and put relations back on track to healthy and stable development. China remains firm in pursuing an independent foreign policy of peace. He also underscored that relations should not be a zero-sum game and that the world was big enough for the two countries to develop themselves and prosper together.
China does not seek to change the existing international order or interfere in the internal affairs of the US and it has no intention to challenge or displace the US. He called for coexisting in peace and pursuing win-win cooperation.
Both agreed to address transnational challenges- such as climate change, global macroeconomic stability including debt relief, health security and global food security.
Biden raised issues concerning Taiwan, Tibet, and Hong Kong broadly. On Taiwan, Biden assured President Xi that the US ‘One China’ policy has not altered and that the US opposes any unilateral changes to the status quo. Biden also said to the media that he does not envisage an ‘imminent’ threat of the Chinese invasion of Taiwan. Xi stated that resolving the Taiwan question is a matter for the Chinese and China’s internal affairs. He described cross-straits peace and stability and “Taiwan’s independence” as irreconcilable as water and fire.
On Ukraine, the two sides agreed that a nuclear war should never be fought and can never be won and both underscored their opposition to the use of force. Biden also raised concern about DPRK’s provocative behavior.
The chief outcome was the decision to revive contacts between the two sides with Secretary of State Blinken due to visit China in early 2023.
For Asia Pacific states, including Pakistan, the summit meeting is an auspicious sign that US- China relations will not veer toward a cataclysmic showdown and that the rhetoric about the world entering a new cold war are misplaced. The competition between the two sides will continue and impose a burden principally on regional states, who desire close relations with both.
- Salman Bashir is a Pakistani diplomat who served as Foreign Secretary of Pakistan and as High Commissioner of Pakistan to India. Twitter: @Salman_B_PK