Biden and Xi To Meet Wednesday in San Francisco

November 10, 2023

President Joe Biden will meet Chinese president Xi Jinping face-to-face for the first time in a year on Wednesday, the White House said, in high-stakes diplomacy aimed at curbing tensions between the world's two superpowers.

The closely watched interaction, on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in the San Francisco Bay area, could last hours and involve teams of officials from Beijing and Washington.

It is expected to cover global issues from the Israel-Hamas war to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, North Korea's ties with Russia, Taiwan, the Indo-Pacific, human rights, fentanyl, artificial intelligence, as well as "fair" trade and economic relations, senior Biden administration officials said.

"Nothing will be held back; everything is on the table," according to one U.S. official, who declined to be named, in a briefing with reporters.

"We're clear-eyed about this. We know efforts to shape or reform China over several decades have failed. But we expect China to be around and to be a major player on the world stage for the rest of our lifetimes."

U.S. officials, who have been pushing for the meeting for the better part of a year, believe Beijing has actively been working to undermine U.S. policy around the world.

The White House confirmed the day of the meeting in a statement on Friday. The Chinese foreign ministry said on Friday that Xi would visit the United States Nov. 14-17, attend the APEC summit, and meet with Biden.

Biden and Xi will speak across oceans of ideological difference for the first time since November 2022. The U.S. president's team engineered a diplomatic blitz to repair hostile relations after Biden ordered the shooting down of a suspected Chinese spy balloon that transited U.S. skies in February.

A main result is expected to be greater diplomacy—promises to talk more on key issues, including on climate, global health, economic stability, counter-narcotic efforts and potentially the resumption of some military-to-military channels after a high-level freeze.

Both sides may make modest gestures of goodwill to ease talks, according to two other people briefed on the discussions.

But deep progress will be hard. Both countries increasingly regard themselves as locked in a direct competition to secure a military edge, corner the 21st-century economy and win the affections of second-tier countries, U.S. and Chinese officials say.

Efforts to carefully choreograph Xi's visit may be upended in the restive Northern California city, which has a long history of left-wing protest and agitation.

Biden and Xi have known each other for more than a decade and shared hours of conversation over six interactions since Biden's 2021 inauguration. But both men come to the table with mutual suspicion, grievances and garbled impressions of what the other is seeking, analysts say.

Among other sensitive topics, Biden is expected to raise Chinese "influence operations" in foreign elections and the status of U.S. citizens that Washington believes are wrongly detained in China.

Biden, 80, presides over an economy that has outperformed expectations and most rich nations after the COVID-19 pandemic. Unpopular with voters at home, he is seeking a second term in office amid concerns about the stability of U.S. democracy.

Nonetheless, Biden has corralled the nation's traditional allies from Europe to Asia to confront Russia in Ukraine, although some have differences over the Israel-Hamas conflict.

Washington's long alliances, from NATO to the defense treaties in the Pacific, are not-so-quietly being summoned in Asia to deter a conflict with China.

Xi, a decade Biden's junior, has become the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao Zedong, after tightening control over policy, state leaders, the media and military and changing the constitution. Recently, compounding economic challenges have thrown the country off its three-decade, rocket-propelled growth trajectory.

Diplomats in Washington expect Beijing to test the United States in coming weeks, taking advantage of the U.S.'s perceived shift in focus on Ukraine and Israel, as it pursues its own ambitions in the Indo-Pacific.

Biden is expected to tell Xi that U.S. commitments in the Indo-Pacific are unchanged. China has worried its neighbors in recent years with steps in the Taiwan Strait, South China Sea, and East China Sea, areas of international dispute. Biden will also express a specific commitment to the security of the Philippines, one of the U.S. officials said.

Biden is also expected to press Xi to impress on Iran that it would be unwise to try to expand the conflict in the Middle East, the official said.

(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; editing by Heather Timmons, Stephen Coates, and Chizu Nomiyiama)