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Historic Summit Between US and China
China and US are making high-level formal plans for Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s visit to the United States and moving forward with efforts to mend their tense relationship. People with knowledge of the situation claim that both parties are debating Chinese Vice Premier He Lifeng’s visit to Washington, where he will meet with senior American officials to discuss economic strategy.
Since President Biden took office, he will be the most senior official to visit the country. In preparation for the Biden-Xi summit, plans are also being made, according to sources, for Wang Yi, the Chinese foreign minister, to travel to Washington in October.
American officials have said that China assisted in transferring an American soldier from North Korean custody this week. Officials said that National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan raised the soldier’s case with Wang during their meeting 10 days ago.
The most recent moves quicken the pace that both governments have been seeking to establish following months of tense relations, and there is a greater chance that Xi will attend the November Asia-Pacific leaders’ conference in San Francisco.
Beijing is pressing for a separate, high-profile summit with Biden in addition to that forum, which both governments see as a potential boost to months of hesitant efforts to normalize relations.
The last meeting between the two leaders took place in November 2022 in Bali, Indonesia, ahead of a summit of 20 major economies, where they directed officials to restart stalled talks on global priorities.
Relationship progress is still precarious and rife with significant differences on the majority of themes. Conflicts might worsen and prevent summit meetings or visits by senior Chinese officials. The possibility that talks or summit preparations would be postponed by government shutdowns is another issue for American officials.
In order to compete with Washington and its allies, Beijing continues to cultivate its ties with Moscow. According to persons with knowledge of the situation, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi will meet in Beijing in October when Xi is hosting a high-level summit on China’s Belt and Road infrastructure program, a significant effort to increase China’s influence in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. On October 17 and 18, the forum is anticipated.
Ryan Hass, director of the China Center at the Brookings Institution think tank and a former China and Asia adviser under the Obama administration, said, “Both sides will keep taking actions they believe are right, and others may interpret as provocative. If senior Chinese officials’ trips this fall go well, the prospects for a leader-level summit will increase.”
In recent weeks, China has worked hard to gain an advantage. Chinese officials criticized the Biden administration for inviting a Hong Kong official chosen by Beijing, who has imposed national security measures on the territory, to a meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, as previously reported.
Foreign Minister Wang said in a briefing in Beijing on Tuesday that this year’s APEC summit “should be a major platform for cooperation, not a battlefield for rivalry.”
As hosts, the United States should exhibit accountability, openness, impartiality, tolerance, and a better demeanor when planning the meeting, he continued.
The Chinese embassy said both governments are “in contact about bilateral exchanges and communication.” The Treasury Department declined to comment. State Department spokesperson Matt Miller, when asked Wednesday about the possibility of a Biden-Xi summit, declined to predict but said, “There’s no substitute for leader-to-leader communication.”
At the beginning of this year, reported Chinese espionage balloons were found floating in the United States, and high-level American-China contacts in Ukraine were disrupted due to intense differences over Russia’s war. Efforts to resolve the situation are being driven by a shared desire for stability in the relationship.
The Biden administration has applied pressure, especially on issues of strategic concern with Beijing, to prevent tensions from escalating into conflicts, notably with Taiwan. But it is also demonstrating to allies and others that it can manage a working relationship with Beijing.
According to close associates of Beijing, President Xi Jinping wants to show the Chinese public that he has brought the most crucial bilateral relationship under control, especially during times of deep economic crisis.
Specifically, people say that Chinese leaders want to see if economic discussions with Washington can help slow down the pace of American restrictions on Chinese high-tech transfers.
Former Chief of the China Division at the International Monetary Fund, Ishwar Prasad, said, “Beijing is quite keen to prevent bilateral tensions from escalating further, especially next year when American elections season heats up.”
Last week, both governments announced the establishment of two working groups for discussions on economic and financial issues following Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen’s visit to Beijing in July. These groups will hold regular meetings at the deputy ministerial level, with reports going to Secretary Yellen and her Chinese counterpart.
U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo also announced during her August trip to China that both sides would establish a working group for discussions on trade and investment issues, along with export controls.The construction of these new mechanisms signals a return to regular economic talks between the world’s two largest economies, which had stalled since the peak of the U.S.-China trade war in 2018.
Former President Donald Trump and his advisers deemed such talks futile in pushing China to change its economic and trade practices. The newly established working groups are narrower in scope compared to the previous dialogue mechanisms initiated by both countries, which brought together numerous senior Chinese and American officials to discuss a wide range of topics.
Foreign Minister Wang, for instance, did not participate in the annual United Nations General Assembly meetings in New York recently. American officials had hoped that they would engage in preparations for a summit and perhaps come to Washington, as Chinese foreign ministry officials indicated amid the summer heat. Instead, Wang held a two-day remarkable dialogue with U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan visits Malta, a country on an island in the Mediterranean Sea.
According to the State Department, China dispatched Vice President Han Zheng, who plays a significant ceremonial role, to the United Nations, where he discussed the possible Xi-Biden summit with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Another positive sign from Beijing: on September 19, Chinese state media published a letter from Shi to two American Flying Tigers veterans who fought for China during World War II, praising the “deep friendship” forged between China and the United States in their struggle against Japan. In response to a letter from the Flying Tigers veterans, Shi wrote, “China and the United States, as two major countries, bear more important responsibilities for world peace, stability, and development.”
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