US President Joe Biden and China’s Xi Jinping will meet at a historic country house and museum with lavish gardens to one-on-one interviews aimed at improving relations between the two superpowers.
The two leaders will meet Wednesday at Filoli, a remote estate along Northern California’s Coast Range. It was built in 1917 as a private residence and later became a National Trust for Historic Preservation site. The area is about 25 miles (40 kilometers) south of San Francisco, where leaders are gathering this week for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders’ conference.
The location of the meeting was revealed by three senior administration officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss an issue with security implications.
Bonnie Glaser, managing director of the German Marshall Fund’s Indo-Pacific program, said the venue likely met Xi’s expectations for a private meeting with Biden away from the main summit venue.
“This appears to be a quiet, secluded area, where Biden and Xi can have an intimate conversation in a relaxed environment,” Glaser said. “It is important to note that the venue is not linked to the APEC summit, giving the impression that the two leaders are holding a bilateral summit separate from the multilateral APEC summit.”
Observers of China’s political elite said Xi wanted to present himself to his domestic audience as Biden’s equal and as commanding the respect of a U.S. president.
The estate covers more than 650 acres (2.6 square kilometers), including a Georgian Revival-style mansion and an English Renaissance-style formal garden. The mansion and grounds are open daily, but the site is currently closed for three days for holiday decorating purposes, its website states.
“A place like this allows them to get away, not only from the media, but from many other things that encourage conflict,” said Jeremi Suri, professor of public affairs and history at the University of Texas at Austin. “If they like each other, they will probably start to trust each other and communicate better.”
Suri says that’s what happened with U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union before its dissolution. The two met at a remote Reykjavik castle in 1986, sat by a fireplace and walked outside in heavy coats, forging a relationship, Suri said.
“We need leaders who can overcome fear,” he said.
San Francisco socialite William Bowers Bourn II named Filoli using the first two letters of key words from his personal credo, according to the estate’s website: “Fight for a just cause.” Love your neighbor. Live a good life.
The venue is available for private events, weddings as well as commercial filming and photography. The gardens are featured in the Jennifer Lopez film “The Wedding Planner.”