The United States’ President, Joe Biden, will be meeting Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, for the first time in a year on Wednesday, for talks that may ease friction between the adversarial superpowers on military conflicts, drug-trafficking and artificial intelligence.
Officials on both sides of the Pacific have set expectations low as Biden and Xi are set to discuss Taiwan, the South China Sea, the Israel-Hamas war, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, North Korea, and human rights – each of the areas where the leaders have been unable to resolve long disagreements.
Biden and Xi arrived in San Francisco on Tuesday, where they were set to hold their meeting on the sidelines the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, Reuters reports.
Leaders from the 21-member country group – and hundreds of CEOs in San Francisco to court them – meet amid Chinese economic weakness, Beijing’s simmering territorial feuds with neighbours and a Middle East conflict that is dividing the United States from allies.
Efforts to carefully choreograph Xi’s visit may be upended in the restive Northern California city, despite efforts to drive homeless people from the streets. The route from the airport to the conference site was lined with demonstrators for and against China’s ruling Communist Party, an unusual sight for Xi who last visited the United States in 2017.
Biden has sought direct diplomacy with Xi, betting that a personal relationship he has cultivated for a dozen years with the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao Zedong might salvage bilateral ties that are increasingly turning hostile.
Xi and Biden are expected to meet far from the conference location at a vast estate miles outside of San Francisco carefully chosen for its security, serenity and remoteness.
“The table has been set … over the course of many weeks for what we hope will be a very productive, candid, constructive conversation,” said John Kirby, a White House spokesperson, to reporters traveling aboard Air Force One.
During the meeting, which could last hours, Biden is expected to press Xi to use China’s influence to urge Iran not to take provocative action or encourage its proxies to enter the fray, to avoid regional escalation of the Israel-Hamas conflict.
He is also expected to raise Chinese “influence operations” in foreign elections and the status of U.S. citizens that Washington believes are wrongly detained in China.
Madukwe B. Nwabuisi is an accomplished journalist renown for his fearless reporting style and extensive expertise in the field. He is an investigative journalist, who has established himself as a kamikaze reporter.