Biden and Xi agree to curb illicit fentanyl and restart military communications—but remain miles apart of many critical issues

US President Joe Biden and China’s Xi Jinping emerged from their first face-to-face meeting in a year on Wednesday pledging to stabilize their strained relations and presenting modest agreements to combat illegal fentanyl and restore communications military. But deep differences remain over economic competition and threats to global security.

The two leaders spent four hours together – in meetings, a working lunch and a walk in the garden – with the intention of showing the world that, although they are global economic competitors, they are not locked in a winner-takes-all confrontation.

“Planet Earth is big enough for both countries to succeed,” Xi told Biden.

The US president told Xi: “I think it is essential that you and I understand each other clearly, leader to leader, without misconceptions or miscommunications. We must ensure that competition does not escalate into conflict.

Their meeting, on the sidelines of the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Conference, has far-reaching implications for a world grappling with opposing economic trendsconflicts in the Middle East and Europe, tensions in Taiwan and more.

They reached expected agreements to curb illicit fentanyl production and restore military ties, a senior US official said after the meeting. Many chemicals used to make synthetic fentanyl come from China and are destined for cartels that traffic the powerful narcotic into the United States, which is facing an overdose crisis.

Senior military officials will resume talks, which are increasingly important, particularly because of the risks or dangers. unprofessional incidents between the two countries’ ships and planes have increased, said the official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the agreements ahead of Biden’s remarks.

The US official described significant exchanges between the two leaders over Taiwan, with Biden blaming China for its massive military buildup around Taiwan and Xi telling Biden he had no plans to invade the island .

Biden, the official said, said the United States was committed to continuing to help Taiwan defend itself and maintain deterrence against a possible Chinese attack, and also called on China to avoid interfering in the the island’s elections next year. The official described the Taiwan side of the talks as “lucid” and “non-passionate.”

Biden also called on Xi to use his influence with Iran to make clear that Tehran and its proxies should not take steps that would lead to an expansion of the war between Israel and Hamas.

During the exchange on Iran, Biden did most of the talking and Xi mostly listened, according to the US official. Foreign Minister Wang Yi assured the United States that the Chinese had expressed their concerns to Iran over the matter. But the official said the United States was unable to determine how seriously the Iranians took the concerns raised by Beijing.

According to a statement released by China Central Television, the state broadcaster, Xi focused mainly on Taiwan and U.S. sanctions and restrictions on Chinese products and companies.

Xi urged the United States to support China’s peaceful unification with the self-ruled island, calling Taiwan the “most important and sensitive issue” in bilateral relations. He also raised Beijing’s concerns over export controls, investment controls and sanctions imposed by the United States, which he said “have seriously harmed China’s legitimate interests.”

“We hope that the US side can seriously consider China’s concerns and take measures to lift unilateral sanctions and provide a fair, equitable and non-discriminatory environment for Chinese companies.”

Xi said he and Biden also agreed to establish dialogue on artificial intelligence and stressed the urgency for the two countries to address the climate crisis, state broadcaster reported.

Both leaders recognized the importance of their relations and the need for better coordination. But their differences shine through: Xi has indicated he wants better cooperation – but on China’s terms. And he sought to project strength to his domestic audience in the face of U.S. policies restricting imports from China and limiting technology transfers to Beijing.

Biden, meanwhile, will also spend time this week in California working to highlight new alliances in the Indo-Pacific region and efforts to boost trade with other regional leaders.

Xi, speaking through an interpreter, said it was “an objective fact that China and the United States are different in terms of history, culture, social system and development” .

The presidents and their respective aides on trade, economics, national security and regional diplomacy met around a long table, the culmination of negotiations between the two leaders’ top aides over the past few months. It was the first conversation of any kind between Biden and Xi since they met last November in Bali.

They seek to rebuild a stable footing after their already strained relations collapsed following US shooting down of Chinese spy balloon who had crossed the continental United States, and amidst differences on the autonomous island of TaiwanChina’s hacking of Biden official’s emails and other topics.

For Biden, Wednesday’s meeting was an opportunity for the president to do what he believes he does best: in-person diplomacy.

“As always, there is no substitute for face-to-face discussions,” he told Xi. With his characteristic optimism, Biden outlined a vision of leaders who manage competition “responsibly,” adding, “that’s what the United States wants and what we intend to do.”

Xi, for his part, was gloomy about the state of the post-pandemic global economy. China’s economy remains in the doldrums, with prices falling due to weak consumer and business demand.

“The global economy is recovering, but its momentum remains slow,” Xi said. “Industrial and supply chains continue to face disruption and protectionism is on the rise. These are all serious problems.

Relations between China and the United States have never been smooth, he said. Yet he continued to move forward. “For two big countries like China and the United States, turning their backs on each other is not an option,” he said.

Specifically, Xi also suggested that it was not up to the United States to dictate how the Chinese manage their affairs, saying: “It is unrealistic for one side to reshape the other, and conflict and confrontation have unbearable consequences for both parties. »

Robert Moritz, global chairman of the consultancy PricewaterhouseCooperssaid business leaders are hoping for signs of increased cooperation and a firmer commitment to free trade between the world’s two largest economies following the Biden-Xi talks.

“What we are looking for is a de-escalation and a lowering of the temperature,” Mortiz said at a CEO summit held in conjunction with the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum that brought together leaders from 21 economies members.

“Discussion is not enough, it is the execution to move things forward” that will count, he said.

The Biden-Xi meeting and broader summit events sparked protests around San Francisco, but the demonstrations were kept at bay. A large crowd loudly condemning Xi marched from the Chinese consulate to the summit venue at the Moscone Center, nearly two miles away. Speakers implored the Biden administration to oppose human rights abuses by Xi and China.

On Wednesday evening, Xi was scheduled to address U.S. business leaders at a $2,000-a-plate dinner that will be a rare opportunity for U.S. business leaders to hear directly from the Chinese leader as they seek clarification on Beijing’s growing security regulations that could stifle foreign investment.

Foreign companies operating in China say tensions between the country and Washington over technology, trade and other issues as well as uncertainty over Chinese policy are harm the business environment and forcing some to reassess their investment plans in the giant market.

Even before the meeting between Biden and Xi, some signs of a thaw were visible: The State Department announced Tuesday that the United States and China – two of the world’s biggest polluters – had agreed to continue their efforts to triple global renewable energy capacity by 2030, thanks to wind power. , solar and other renewable energies.

There were also light moments between the two leaders who have spent a lot of time together over the past decade. Biden asked Xi to send best birthday wishes to Xi’s wife, who will celebrate next week. Xi thanked the president for reminding him. The Chinese leader said he was so busy working that he forgot the big day was approaching.

Biden and Xi held their talks at the Filoli estate, a bucolic country house and museum about 25 miles south of San Francisco. The event was carefully planned, with Biden arriving at the grand estate first, then Xi. After their handshake and smiles, they sat down with their assistants for discussions that lasted more than two hours.

This was followed by a working lunch with members of the inner circle of the two administrations. They ate ravioli, chicken and broccolini, with almond meringue cake and praline buttercream for dessert.

Before parting ways, the two walked the property along a red brick path through impressive topiaries and knotted gothic trees. Asked by journalists how the meeting went, the president responded “good” and gave a thumbs up.

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