Joe Biden is meeting his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in person for the first time since he became president, and the list of items to discuss is a lengthy one.
The duo, who have met in the past when Biden was vice president, will be attending the G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, on Nov. 14. Biden has been championing dialogue with China to avoid “unintended conflict,” while also pursuing policies that diminish US dependency on Chinese manufacturing, such as the America Competes Act.
The two countries both seem to want to cooperate on tackling the climate crisis. Americans’ perception of China has also improved, from “enemy” to “competitor,” since the start of Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Yet tensions between the world’s top superpowers are simmering, and not just in the trade arena, but also on foreign policy, particularly on the issue of Taiwan’s independence and other territories in the Pacific.
The Leaders will discuss efforts to maintain and deepen lines of communication between the United States and the PRC, responsibly manage competition, and work together where our interests align, especially on transnational challenges that affect the international community. The two Leaders will also discuss a range of regional and global issues. —White House statement
Feb. 2021: In his first phone call to Xi after taking office, Biden highlights a list of concerns: “Beijing’s coercive and unfair economic practices, crackdown in Hong Kong, human rights abuses in Xinjiang, and increasingly assertive actions in the region, including toward Taiwan.” Most of these concerns still stand.
Mar. 2021: The Federal Communication Commission puts five Chinese companies on a blacklist over national security concerns. It’s the first of a series of restrictions on Chinese companies by various parts of the US government, including the commerce department, and the treasury, on similar grounds. The US also sanctioned multiple Chinese and Hong Kong officials, prompting China to retaliate with an Anti-Foreign Sanctions Law.
June 2021: Biden expands a Trump-era ban on American investment in Chinese firms with ties to the defense and surveillance sector.
Dec. 2021: The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued new rules allowing it to delist Chinese firms.
Feb. 2022: US officials boycott the 2022 Beijing Olympics
June 2022: The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which was passed in December, goes into effect, banning imports on a range of goods from Xinjiang suspected of using
Aug. 2022: The US Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi visits Taiwan. A furious China cancels and suspends several US-China talks and areas of cooperation, sanctions Pelosi, and launches large-scale military exercises.
According to US national security adviser Jake Sullivan, the meeting isn’t expected to solve all issues and provide tangible results. It’s more for the US and China to suss out their futures together and apart.
Zhao Lijian, a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, described China’s US policy as “consistent and clear” in a press conference on Nov. 10 in which he highlighted how the two country’s economic and trade relations are “win-win” in nature. But he also warned: “The US should stop using economic and trade issues as a political tool or making them an ideological matter. Instead, the US needs to take concrete actions to uphold the rules of the market economy and the international trading system.”
Lijian also reiterated a longstanding Chinese foreign policy mantra: “The development of state-to-state relations is not a zero-sum game. China always stands for inclusive partnerships that do not target any third party and rejects coercing countries into choosing sides.”
India’s prime minister Narendra Modi is taking over the G20 presidency in Bali.
Separately, India has been deepening its ties with the US as relations with China soured. In fiscal 2021-22, the US dethroned China as India’s top trading partner. Bilateral trade between India and the US was higher than India-China trade. In May, India joined the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) set up by Biden for 13 Asian countries, excluding China.
Of course, it’s still a long way from becoming the world’s factory.