June 18, 2024

‘At Least It Was Polite’: Observers See Few Groundbreaking Moments in Xi-Biden Meeting

Author : Fantine Gardinier | Editor : Anty | November 15, 2022 at 07:28 AM

The Monday meeting between the American and Chinese leaders in Bali, Indonesia, ahead of the Group of 20 summit didn’t break much new ground, experts told Sputnik, but if the two nations stick to their promises to increase cooperation and communication, it could steer the world away from disaster in the near term.  

For about 3 hours and 20 minutes on Monday in Bali, Indonesia, US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping held their first in-person meeting as heads of state. While the two superpower leaders did not issue a joint statement, according to the separate readouts each nation issued, their discussions ranged across a wide variety of topics, but focused on central themes of widening communications and avoiding open conflict between them. When Biden revealed the scheduled meeting last week, he told reporters that "What I want to do with him when we talk is lay out what kind of, what each of our red lines are,” figure out if they conflict, "And if they do, how to resolve and how to work it out."  

Thomas W. Pauken II, the author of "US vs China: From Trade War to Reciprocal Deal," a consultant on Asia-Pacific affairs, and a geopolitical commentator, told Sputnik on Monday that Washington and Beijing had no reason to not have begun these talks months ago, and that the lack of communication was causing serious problems.  

“Basically, what actually happened there, both sides were talking about their opinions or their perspective from their side. So, China tried to defend its side and the US tried to defend their side,” he explained.  

“At least it was done in a polite manner. It did not turn into a fireworks show, so that's a good thing,” Pauken noted. “But at the same time, I don't see as if there's not going to be much accomplished."  

"Because even if there's talks, some dialogue going on right now, how come there were not these kinds of talks and dialogues going on last year or a few months ago? Biden could have visited China or Xi could have visited the US. Why were these types of trips not occurring? I find that rather odd. Basically, they're just using G20 to get everything started. But at the same time, this should have been done much earlier,” he continued.  

On the question of “red lines,” which Biden said he and Xi would discuss, Pauken predicted that for the US it would “probably be about Taiwan,” and for China “it could be in regards to the issues of some of these, perhaps, trade issues that the US is trying to push ahead on blocking semiconductors and chips, decoupling the economic, decoupling of China.”  

“Everyone has their red line, there's no surprise there,” he said. “[B]oasting about red lines, you've got to realize that if somebody crosses the red line, he's got to back it up. But look what he did in Afghanistan. He had red lines in Afghanistan and still they had the US troop withdrawal. If I was the Democrat and Biden, I don't think I would be boasting too much about red lines, considering their history of not protecting those red lines.”  

Pauken said he found it “odd” that “the nuclear issue” was discussed openly, rather than behind closed doors. “I find it rather odd that they're making public, that Biden is talking about nukes. I mean, come on, I don't think Russia was going to use nukes. If they'd done it, they would have done it already. And this whole threat of nuclear weapons, it was Biden talking about it first,” he noted.  

“But it sounds to me that Biden is just simply making people scared simply because he knows [Russian President Vladimir] Putin is not going to use nuclear weapons. He's just trying to demonize Putin and then he's trying to put China in an uncomfortable position where he's hoping they say something negative about Russia,” he said.  

“But China is a smart country and they know that if they go against Russia, they will lose Russia forever. Whereas the US-China friendship is not very reliable. And Biden, even while he's having these discussions, he is definitely still pushing ahead on this China containment policy. Russia's not doing that to China. Biden and Washington are doing that to China. So how could China really trust the West when they are acting this way?”  

Fabio Massimo Parenti, associate professor of international political economy and global studies at China Foreign Affairs University and the Italian International Institute Lorenzo de Medici, told Sputnik that Washington and Beijing need to talk more than ever, after the August confrontation triggered by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) visit to Taiwan, which China sees as a Chinese province in rebellion.  

“In the interest of world’s peoples, both countries need to avoid further escalation. In this turbulent bilateral relation we are still waiting for the real US goodwill,” he said, adding that the US “is still promoting hegemony and in the current changed world, such an approach cannot work anymore.”  

“As far as I know, nobody could have high expectations in this meeting after years of increasing tensions between China and US, since the latter started a commercial war more than 6 years ago,” he added.  

“The leaders confirm the common will to restart higher level communication, giving permission for [US Secretary of State Antony] Blinken visiting China in the near future. They tried to show responsibility towards world affairs and international public opinion, talking about coexistence and ways to deal with global concerns and challenges,” he noted.  

“In spite of cordial talk, however, the main strategic issues between the two countries did not evolve into any new possible solution. The Taiwan issue, for example, was discussed formally in the same way of the recent past. Formal positions seem to be in equilibrium, even though the US practices have not yet offered any guarantee or real trust to the Chinese perspective.”  

Parenti said Washington’s attitude about unilaterally imposing red lines was an “an irreconcilable approach for China and the majority of the world’s population.”  

“China does not accept unilateral actions and choices, it wants to work within UN’s framework and it wants to protect its political autonomy and foreign affairs views,” he noted, recalling what Xi said after the meeting:  

“China remains firm in pursuing an independent foreign policy of peace, always decides its position and attitude based on the merits of issues, and advocates resolving disputes peacefully through dialogue and consultation,” the Chinese leader said.  

Parenti explained that the US trade war against China has “failed,” and that today the US suffers a greater trade imbalance with China than before.  

“In the US, local industrial and agricultural organizations are still claiming for lifting US trade sanctions against China,” he noted. “Therefore, the two economies could gain more benefits from each other if they would be able to normalize their relations.”  

“Finally, the peoples of the world would like to see peaceful and harmonious relations between China and the US, because they do understand that world peace passes through these bilateral relations, giving potential benefit to global economic conditions,” Parenti noted. “A global economic recession could be a common ground for big powers to cooperate, showing responsibility to the world and containing the current negative effects of economic fractures and problems, also deriving consistently from geopolitical-economic tensions.”  

Pauken also predicted that the recession could help heal some of the damage caused by US “decoupling” efforts, if the two nations seize the opportunity. But if not, it could make things markedly worse.  

“So I've said all along, whenever I've talked to US people or US officials, that if you're headed for a serious economic crisis, you've got to start working better with China, because if you don't, it's only going to get worse. So there needs to be some way of the two countries working together because this economic decoupling could be very catastrophic. It's very serious,” he said.  

“Obviously, the two countries are not going to fight a military war, since that's for the time being, at least for the one or two years ahead. I don't anticipate something like that happening. But if there is a real economic war, through economic decoupling, export bans, import bans, that's still very serious. That's going to create a lot of hardship, not just for the Chinese, but also for the Americans. The US is the top importer in the world. And China is the top exporter in the world. If you block that and change that trend, that will create a lot of problems in the global supply chains and then bringing goods and products to stores all over the world.”  

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- Source : Fantine Gardinier

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