US attitude towards Chinese leader is darkening
At one of his 2011 meetings with then Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, Joe Biden, who was in an equal position in the United States, hailed the direction in which Washington-Beijing relations were taking, but the situation has changed since then.
Biden told businessmen who met the US and Chinese vice presidents at a hotel in Beijing at the time that “the development of the relationship is positive,” and expressed his “great optimism for the next 30 years.”
But now, a little over a decade after that meeting, Xi and Biden-turned-president are preparing to meet again, in an unfavorable relationship, and no US political official is optimistic about what Xi, China’s most powerful leader in decades, is concerned has secured a historic third term.
Biden and Xi are set to hold talks on the sidelines of the Group of Twenty summit in Bali tomorrow Monday, at a time when American concerns are mounting: China under Xi has become “more repressive at home” and “more aggressive,” in the words of Secretary of State Anthony Blinken abroad,” with the impossibility of China threatening to invade Taiwan being more serious.
This is the first face-to-face meeting between the US and Chinese presidents since talks with former President Donald Trump in 2019, with Xi finally returning to overseas travel in the wake of the epidemic.
But Biden and Xi know each other, and have spoken five times by phone or video since the Democratic president took office in the White House in 2021, their relationship runs much deeper.
When Xi was vice president, Biden traveled to China in 2011 and later invited his counterpart to tour the United States.
Biden said he spent 67 hours with Xi as vice president as part of the then-Barack Obama administration’s efforts to understand or woo the rising Chinese leader.
Since then, US officials and pundits have estimated that Xi, 69, does not want to be more dovish given the Chinese Communist Party’s new Central Committee is made up of hardliners.
Both Biden and Trump viewed China as the United States’ greatest international rival, and while Trump attacked China on everything from trade to COVID-19, Biden backed talks on narrow areas of cooperation.
Biden told reporters Wednesday that he would discuss each country’s “red lines” with Xi in hopes of avoiding conflict.
China’s red lines include democratic and autonomous Taiwan, which Beijing says it is part of, where Beijing held drills in what were seen as a test of aggression in protest at the visit of House Speaker Nancy Pelosis in August.
Biden has said on three occasions that the United States would defend Taiwan militarily if China attacked it, while the White House appeared to be retreating from its longstanding strategy of “strategic ambiguity.”
“There is a widespread feeling that the United States has finally understood the nature of the threat,” said a senior Washington-based diplomat for an Asian ally of the United States.
But Biden said he hopes to work with China, the biggest emitter of carbon dioxide, on the issue of climate change, while officials on Saturday said Biden will push Xi on North Korea, a Chinese ally that has been firing a barrage of missiles in recent weeks Has .
Both Biden and Trump viewed China as the United States’ greatest international rival. While Trump has attacked China on everything from trade to COVID-19, Biden has backed talks on tight areas of cooperation.
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