Is Biden-Xi meeting a reset of U.S.-China relations?



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US President Joe Biden and Chinese president XI Jin ping held their first face-to-face meeting in a year yesterday so we’re back to direct open clear Direct Communications on a on a B on a direct basis exchanging handshakes and smiles both Sid signaled a desire for stabilizing us China relations Biden’s

Opening remarks warned the two Nations should not Veer into conflict with Chinese president echoing that planet Earth is big enough for for two so is this a reset of China’s China us relations Vina najaba is the vice president research and strategy with the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada we

Reach her at the Apex Summit V it’s good to talk to you again it’s good to speak with you as well David we haven’t seen things this kind of friendly between the United States and China in a while I wonder what was your impression of the meeting between President XI and President Biden

Yesterday absolutely well the expectations for the meeting were very low and I think both sides met those expectations and you’re absolutely right uh tensions have been reduced uh there’s a little bit better tone coming out of China and certainly president shiin ping is trying to charm the business

Community that’s gathered here and also the leaders from the 21 economies here at APAC but uh my sense is that while it’s good news that we have deescalation in relations it is unlikely to last given everything that’s ahead for us in 2024 okay I I want to touch on that

Pessimistic note in just a second but but first not too pessimistic cautious I I got you I got you but like we do have this readout from China’s foreign Ministry saying the US China relationship is the most important bilateral relationship in the world a stable and growing China is good for the

United States and the whole world that does seem like warming rhetoric right so so how should we read that absolutely we should see this as uh president Shi Jinping and CCP and China wanting to deescalate tensions the economy for China is not doing uh well right now and they really trying to make

Sure that people see that China is open for business and that there’s still a lot of opportunity that it’s still the largest market so you’re absolutely right this is a much more toned down version of rhetoric this is not W for your diplomacy by any stretch of imagination right so the rhetoric is

Certainly moving in the right direction but I think as President Biden said um you can trust but you should verify and a lot of what will happen next will depend on actions on the ground China right so let’s get back to what I called the pessimistic note but what you call

Realistic what do you think can potentially undo uh or or chill some of this warming uh over the next year or so yes well and again it’s deescalation it’s stabilization right I think the right language would be that we’re stabilizing the relationship because both us and China want that on the other

Hand I mean we still have a lot of hot spots right um the elections in Taiwan are going to be closely watched It’s good news I guess for president Xi Jinping that the two major opposition parties in Taiwan have now uh United and they will try to present a much more uh

Serious challenge to the ruling DPP party and the candidate the vice president but nonetheless we will be watching closely what happens there right that election is really consequential we’re also seeing a lot of tension in the South China and East China Sea right like what’s happening off the shores of Philippines very much

Critical and there’s quite a bit of pressure so it’s good news that both President Biden president Xi Jinping decided to resume the military to military dialogue because it’s really about establishing guard rails and making sure that both sides know each other’s red lines so but those tensions

Haven’t gone away again dialogue is good deescalation is good there have been some positive outcomes from this meeting but a lot will depend on what happens in the next few months and the tensions are still going to be there you you you talk about Taiwan as a potential flasho the

Sort of the military muscle flexing that’s been happening in the South China Philippines exactly so this is obviously the big concern is that this could turn into another conflict in another theater I I wonder from the China and US perspective what’s happening with Russia and Ukraine what’s happening with Israel

And Hamas how much does that push them towards deescalation and normalization to avoid a third major conflict breaking out absolutely there’s definitely desire to avoid a third theater as you said in the Indo Pacific primarily in the South China Sea but there’s also a recognition that the relationship between the US and

China have consequences for the Middle East have consequences for what’s happening in Ukraine I think the situation in the Middle East certainly was dominating the conversations it’s dominating a lot of the discussions here in APAC as well in terms of both the protests and the media attention and

There while both sides while both us and China don’t want to escalate the situation uh for their own reasons I think it does serve China to some extent to have us distracted in the Middle East and in Europe right so whereas us would like to immediately resolve the issues

For the perspective of China as long as the US has its hands full in the Middle East and in in Ukraine there’s less bandwidth to deal with the Indo Pacific the US is also going to have its hands full with an election next year I mean you talked about Taiwan election being

Consequential I think the US election might be the most consequential election in the world next year I I mean do you think that plays into this whole relationship well that’s this was the last really opportunity for President Biden to have another meeting face Toof face with President she right and to put

A floor underneath this relationship in part because he doesn’t want to have to deal with any major escalation attention going into the election year here in the US which is going to be really really difficult to manage we’re already seeing a signature initiative that President Biden wanted to launch here at the uh

APAC was around the indopacific economic framework right to show to China that us is going to be a serious player in the economic realm in the indo-pacific but that unfortunately didn’t happen because of opposition in Congress right from Democrats not even Republicans so domestic politics in the US is going to

Make it more challenging um for the US to be a reliable and a steady partner in the indo-pacific so s just as a final point to bring in the Canadian angle here Canada’s relationship with China not great Canada’s relationship with India not great as all part of the Indo

Pacific strategy where does Canada fit into this deescalation between the US and China and and the Apex Summit more broadly absolutely well at this point uh Canada is the only G7 country that doesn’t have highlevel dialogue with China right we’re still frozen out we saw Australia uh re-engage after their

Difficult uh relationship with China was sort of going on for almost 5 years as well so for us given our relationship with China and our relationship with India a lot of attention is currently on aan which is also why we’re seeing the bilateral meetings that prime minister Trudeau is having here with within

Indonesia with Thailand and others as well and of course all the trade missions that are going to go to aan in the beginning of 2024 so I think and there’s also conversations with Australia which I hope will be largely around how do we manage our relations with China and hopefully some lessons

That Canada can learn from how Australia has stabilize its relations with China while also being a really close Ally of the US and taking part in AAS and the quad and and all of the other mechanisms that are now being put in place in the Indo Pacific to deal with China V najoua

Vice President research and strategy at the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada thanks so much for your time today thank you David

When U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping met face to face for the first time ahead of the APEC summit, both leaders expressed the desire to stabilize U.S.-China relations. Vina Nadjibulla, vice president of research and strategy at the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada gives her impression of the meeting and what it could mean for the U.S. and China going forward.

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