Don’t call it a ‘summit’: Biden-Xi meeting brings low expectations

However past performative goodwill gestures, folks aware of the upcoming meeting say, each leaders will doubtless search settlement on a handful of short- and medium-term initiatives developed by bilateral working teams to cut back frictions, whereas signaling alignment on wider geopolitical considerations together with North Korea and Iran.

“Each side acknowledge they’ve actual variations, that they’re going to compete, however it is important to maintain it peaceable, inside bounds and don’t wish to stumble into warfare,” mentioned Winston Lord, former assistant secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs below President Invoice Clinton.

That method echoes a assertion Friday by a senior administration official who emphasised the meeting “will not be about in search of deliverables, or outcomes … [but about] setting the phrases of an efficient competitors.”

The meeting’s precise agenda hasn’t been publicly disclosed. White Home press secretary Jen Psaki released a statement Friday confirming the meeting’s date, however limiting touch upon its focus to “methods to responsibly handle the competitors between the USA and the PRC, in addition to methods to work collectively the place our pursuits align.”

Chinese language Overseas Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying issued her personal detail-free confirmation Saturday of the meeting in a one sentence assertion that the 2 leaders would “alternate views on China-US relations and problems with mutual curiosity.” And Chinese language Overseas Minister Wang Yi expressed his hope to Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a Saturday phone call that the meeting will “carry bilateral relations again onto the observe of sound and regular improvement,” however likewise shared no particulars.

These statements mirror a joint technique to average expectations about attainable outcomes by referring to the occasion as a “digital meeting” somewhat than as a summit.

However there’s motive to hope the meeting will green-light initiatives brainstormed in latest weeks by bilateral working teams that concentrate on more-easily addressed points. “There may be the true chance of the meeting producing ‘sweeteners,’ that deal with explicit features of the commerce relationship,” mentioned a D.C.-based diplomat aware of the main focus of these working teams. Nevertheless, the diplomat cautioned the 2 sides could select to announce these initiatives in time-delayed vogue post-summit, somewhat than as instant deliverables.

That’s music to the ears of a U.S. enterprise group for whom the established order on U.S.-China commerce relations is more and more unacceptable. “We wish stability [and] we’re involved that the tariffs could turn out to be perpetual and trigger appreciable long-term harm to each economies, whereas distorting the general bilateral relationship,” mentioned Craig Allen, president of the U.S.-China Enterprise Council, a D.C.-based foyer group, in a written assertion to POLITICO.

Biden has maintained key features of former President Donald Trump’s commerce coverage, including tariffs that China considers unfair, and is pressuring Beijing to meet its commitments below the Section One U.S.-China commerce deal applied in January 2020. U.S. Commerce Consultant Katherine Tai final month introduced that the Biden administration’s final aim was to determine a bilateral “sturdy co-existence” outlined by dialogue. The Biden-Xi meeting offers the 2 leaders a chance to make gestures towards a higher commerce relationship essential to that aim.

“The potential low-hanging fruit can be Chinese language commitments with respect to sure mental property points … and there’s room for potential motion particularly areas of rigidity together with [Chinese] metal, aluminum and photo voltaic panels,” mentioned Gregory Shaffer, director of the UC Irvine Heart on Regulation and Globalization. “The U.S. may negotiate one thing just like what it lately did with Europe within the type of cutbacks on sure tariffs, whereas creating safety for American industries for a shock of large Chinese language imports.”

The meeting additionally offers Biden and Xi a chance to display symbolic goodwill by asserting their willingness to work collectively on a host of thorny regional and international geopolitical safety points. U.S. progress on key points — together with curbing North Korea’s ballistic missile development program and prodding Iran again into compliance with an international accord on its nuclear program — hinge on China making use of its diplomatic and financial leverage.

“The mere affirmation of the truth that each international locations might be on the identical web page and no less than be keen to barter on North Korea, Iran and even to some extent Afghanistan makes an necessary, clear-cut assertion that alongside the acute competitors between each international locations, there are nonetheless areas the place they will work collectively,” mentioned Willy Wo-Lap Lam, of the Chinese language College of Hong Kong.

Absent from the agenda shall be any significant dialogue on hot-button points that might derail the meeting, such as human rights and China’s tightening chokehold on Hong Kong. With regard to U.S. considerations over Chinese language authorities abuses in opposition to Xinjiang Uyghurs, don’t search for Biden to trot out the word “genocide,” however as an alternative use a less-inflammatory reference just like what he did in a February CNN town hall.

Taiwan, a perennially fraught bilateral subject, shall be much more so on Monday given the latest uptick in tensions over the self-governing island. The U.S. and regional allies together with Japan have been dismayed by an intensifying Chinese campaign of army intimidation in direction of Taiwan.

Likewise, the Chinese language authorities has expressed concern over latest U.S. strikes and statements that Beijing has interpreted as encouragement for Taiwanese pro-independence advocates. China sees that as a violation of lengthy standing bilateral agreements on Taiwan’s relationship to the U.S., as enshrined within the Three Communiqués issued collectively by the 2 international locations from 1972-1982. (U.S. lawmakers have additional clarified the U.S. relationship with Taiwan by way of the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act and the Reagan administration’s Six Assurances.)

Chinese language considerations in regards to the U.S. relationship with Taiwan have been heightened by Biden’s declaration at a CNN city corridor final month that the U.S. will defend Taiwan within the occasion of a Chinese language invasion: “Yes, we have a commitment to do that,” Biden instructed host Anderson Cooper. White Home spokesperson Jen Psaki was compelled to refute speculation that Biden had ended the longstanding coverage of “strategic ambiguity” concerning a U.S. response to a Chinese language assault on the self-governing island. Wang Yi implicitly referenced Biden’s assertion in his Saturday call with Blinken by criticizing “latest fallacious phrases and deeds on the Taiwan query.”

“On contentious points, notably the geopolitical points within the Taiwan Strait or the South China Sea, Beijing’s general very aggressive energy projection, I do not assume there shall be a meeting of the minds,” mentioned Lam. “And on human rights, Xinjiang and Hong Kong, either side will simply conform to disagree as a result of there’s no actual room for maneuver for either side on these points.”

However specialists word that any absence of express point out within the post-summit briefing of potential bilateral strikes to de-escalate tensions over Taiwan received’t essentially imply that such initiatives weren’t mentioned. The sensitivity of the Taiwan subject — and intense home strain to make sure no trace of concessions in established positions — will doubtless relegate any initiative to cut back tensions within the Taiwan Strait to the standing of unofficial and unremarked.

“As an alternative of transiting the Taiwan Strait with naval vessels as soon as a month, [the U.S. ] can do it each different month whereas the Chinese language can start to cut back the frequency of their presence inside Taiwan’s air protection zone,” mentioned Robert Ross, political science professor at Boston School. “Each side can stroll it again by means of implicit coverage changes, and that’s not onerous to do.”

An important potential long-term affect of the digital meeting shall be a mutual recognition that the breakdown in bilateral communications that started below Trump is dangerous and counterproductive.

“I believe after the Biden-Xi meeting, the pattern shall be set for no less than extra frequent ministerial-level or cabinet-level conferences between senior officers of either side just like what we noticed below President Obama … that might be massive progress,” Lam mentioned.

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