The Xi-Biden Summit: China and America’s Virtual Dialogue

The summit sent a message that despite the recent upsets and conflicting interests between the two countries, their leaders will keep things amicable.

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Xi-Biden Virtual Summit:  On 16 November, American President Joseph Biden met with Chinese President Xi Jinping for a “virtual meeting.” The two leaders discussed the relationship between their two countries. The meeting was cordial, though each leader brought up issues of contention between the two countries. Xi brought up his concerns about the growing American militarism in the Pacific region, and interference in China’s policy regarding Taiwan. Biden hit back citing China’s human rights track record and his objections to China’s trading behavior with the United States over the past year.

In the Xi-Biden Summit, both leaders reaffirmed their commitment to peace and mutual support. The meeting was presented as a dialogue, with no lasting commitments or obligations.

Theatre of Diplomacy 

The Xi-Biden Summit was to assure the public of both countries that China and the United States would take a less confrontational stance regarding each other. Investors have been expressing concerns about American-Chinese relations in trade, fearing a trade war. People of both counties see the relationship, be it rivalrous or in terms of comparison, as a sign of their country’s place in the world.
PC: The New York Times
Preceding Biden, Donald Trump had accused Biden’s Democratic Party of being soft on China. He had argued that China had taken advantage of their trade agreements with the US, leading to a loss of American jobs and income. Trump ran on a platform of negotiation as opposed to the old policies of militarism and diplomacy. In the recent Presidential election, Biden accused Trump of being loud on China, but poor at negotiation. Biden promised a more substantial position regarding China.
This had left the new American President at odds with himself. On one side, he has affirmed a commitment to diplomatic relations driving foreign policy. On the other, he has promised a harder stance on China. To restore America’s foreign policy to the pre-Trump status quo, Biden would like to develop friendlier relations with China. Biden is stuck because of some of Trump’s agreements. Therefore, nothing substantial could be promised. Given these complexities, the Biden administration is still lacking in a concrete policy regarding China.

Climate Change

This Xi-Biden virtual summit comes on the heels of the 26th UN Conference on Climate Change (COP26) the week before. President Xi did not attend COP26. China did send an envoy to the conference, but large countries, like India, the United States, and China, are among the world’s largest producers of Greenhouse Gases. They are important parties to the agreement. Along with the European Union, Russia and Japan, these countries are most important in staving off climate change. Large countries like the United States, China, and India, are also disproportionately affected, compared to smaller countries, where smaller changes in the climate are likely to cause famine, submersion, and flooding across the country. (While India is vulnerable to the effects of Climate Change, smaller neighboring countries, like Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Nepal, Myanmar, and the Maldives will feel the effects far more drastically)
At the same time, developing countries, like China, have argued that they have been denied the industrial advantages that developed economies have already benefited from. China has much to lose and less to gain in the bargain. At this time, regarding climate change, there will be growing conflicts of interest between countries that are more vulnerable and those that economically benefit from Greenhouse Gas emissions. On this front, China and the United States are natural allies and are working on bilateral agreements concerning development and Green House Gas emissions.

Fear of War

The escalation between the US and China has been a concern for a long time. Both countries have nuclear weapons and very advanced military capabilities. Since the beginning of the War on Terror, the United States has moved away from seeking international cooperation, and towards a strategy of developing its military alliances. NATO has been America’s biggest tool in developing alliances, either through arms agreements, invasion, or diplomacy.
Since 2016, Trump’s “America First” policy, has led to a shrinking influence. Trump overturned the earlier policy of growing influence through diplomacy and invasion in favor of outright negotiation. After Trump’s policy of America First, Biden has tried to return America to its commitment to its allies in being under the American military umbrella, where American troops and military contracts have percolated across the world. America’s main rivals in this are global powers, like Russia and China, as well as certain regional powers, like Iran, Turkey, and Venezuela.
Also Read: Five things you need to know about the Glasgow Climate Pact
China has been developing economic alliances, through the Silk Road initiative, and has only maintained a regional military influence. Like Russia, China limits the area where the US has influence. This is the basis of the rivalry between the United States and China. In the summit, this was alluded to. Both countries hope to operate side-by-side without interfering with each other, but as the world begins to fall under the shadows of these superpowers, there is an uneasiness that another Cold War might be brewing.

Trade and Debt 

Biden’s Democratic party is often seen as “soft on China,” compared to the opposition Republican Party. One major contention between the two countries is trade. America has been in a growing trade deficit with China since the 1990s. America has often accused China of adopting protectionist policies. Before Biden’s Presidency, Donald Trump adopted protectionist policies for American Trade, leading to a confrontational relationship with China.
The Xi-Biden Virtual Summit was supposed to assure investors that both China and the United States would begin to remove trade barriers. Last year, America entered into a bilateral phase one trade agreement with the United States to commit to $173 billion in imports, of which they only bought $100 billion. American investors have complained that China has not been respecting their trade agreement. The summit sent a message that despite the recent upsets and conflicting interests between the two countries, their leaders will keep things amicable.


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April 2024


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