Opinion: Xi-Biden Summit Sets New Direction for China-U.S. Relations by Gao Ruidong

22 Nov 2023

By Gao Ruidong

On Nov. 15, Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Joe Biden held a summit at the Filoli Estate in San Francisco. The two leaders engaged in a candid and in-depth exchange of views on strategic and global issues, and matters concerning the direction of China-U.S. relations.

High-level dialogues between China and the United States resumed in May this year, and a series of consultation mechanisms have since been established, covering topics from economics and finance to political security, laying a solid foundation for the Xi-Biden meeting.

From Bali to San Francisco, the continuous promotion of a stable and predictable pattern of interaction between the leaders of the world’s two largest economies holds greater significance than immediate progress in specific areas.

If this pattern can be maintained, it will help transition China-U.S. relations from the tactical and phased easing caused by political and economic cycles to a new equilibrium, whereby both countries cooperate to address global challenges and promote world security and prosperity.

New directions

During the meeting, President Xi pointed out five pillars of China-U.S. relations, ranging from correct perceptions of bilateral relations to enhancing people-to-people communication.

We believe that those five pillars further illustrate the consensus of managing differences reached by two leaders in Bali last year. These pillars will help find points of cooperation amid competition, supporting a stable and healthy development of China-U.S. relations.

The Xi-Biden summit also reached a series of specific agreements in four key areas, building upon previous signals of cooperation between the two sides.

1. Climate Cooperation

The U.S. has consistently expressed strong signals about cooperating on climate issues. Before the summit, the two sides jointly issued the Sunnylands Statement, in which they reiterated their commitment to cooperate and work with other countries to address the climate crisis. This covered multiple areas such as the energy transition, methane and other non-CO2 greenhouse gas emissions, the circular economy and efficiency in resource utilization and more.

2. Anti-Drug Cooperation

Regarding the control of fentanyl, the U.S. has also consistently expressed a strong desire to cooperate. For example, in May 2023, U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan called on China to take more measures to prevent the flow of illegal drugs. In June 2023, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken proposed the establishment of a new working group with China to restart negotiations on combating fentanyl. The recent summit also proposed the establishment of a China-U.S. anti-drug working group.

3. Artificial Intelligence

In August 2023, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo expressed Washington’s willingness to strengthen cooperation with China on artificial intelligence (AI), climate change, and combating fentanyl. Before the Xi-Biden meeting, China and 27 other countries jointly signed the Bletchley Declaration, which is aimed at addressing concerns about powerful AI models posing threats to human survival, and concerns about the current enhancement of harmful or biased information by artificial intelligence. The Xi-Biden meeting proposed establishing government-to-government dialogue on AI.

4. Restarting Military Dialogue

Previously, dialogue between the militaries of China and the U.S. had been suspended, primarily due to then-U.S. House Speaker Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan. However, recently there have been signs of resumption. The Xi-Biden meeting proposed to “resume high-level military communication, China-U.S. Department of Defense working meetings, and China-U.S. Maritime Military Safety Consultation Mechanism meetings, and conduct communications between top military leaders.” This move will help the Chinese and U.S. militaries better manage differences and prevent unnecessary risks due to lack of communication.

5. Further expansion of people-to-people exchanges

Proposals include significantly increasing flights, expanding education, student, youth, cultural, sports, and business exchanges.

The Chinese market has been closely following whether there will be tariff reductions. We believe that while tariff reductions can further ease China-U.S. tensions, they also face some obstacles.

Firstly, the current inflationary pressure in the U.S. has continued to decline from its previous peak. Secondly, the Biden administration needs to consider its election plan. The Biden administration’s agenda serves the American middle class and Biden himself even participated in strikes by automotive workers, emphasizing his support of providing job opportunities and the reshoring of manufacturing.

In this context, tariff reductions are not the priority for Biden to win voter support.

Read also the original story.

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