The US and China have a chance to cool down with a virtual summit

US officials say the virtual meeting held by President BidenJoe Biden Biden Reaffirms His Commitment To Taiwan’s ‘One China’ Policy In Call With Xi Biden Raises Human Rights With China’s Xi During Four-Hour Biden Meeting, Xi Holds ‘Candid’ Discussion Amid Highs tensions MORE and Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday was not about easing tensions between the two countries.

But the day after Monday night’s nearly four-hour meeting, which dragged on longer than expected, it was hard to escape the idea that the talks had not at least served as a moment to deepen the lines of communication between the two governments, which have been fighting for Taiwan, China’s treatment of minorities and the coronavirus, among many other problems.

“I think the meeting could cool down a bit in terms of … the heated rhetoric we’ve seen from both sides,” said David Sacks, an expert on US-China relations at the Council on Foreign Relations. “I don’t see it leading to a new trajectory or a restart of any kind in the relationship.”

There were no major breakthroughs during the meeting, but White House officials emphasized the importance of the talks themselves. The talks followed a surprising development last week in which the United States and China reached an agreement on a joint commitment to address climate change at the COP26 summit in Glasgow.

That joint commitment helped pave the way for the virtual bilateral meeting.

“There is no substitute for direct leader-to-leader engagement to avoid miscommunication about our purpose and motives, our policies and, of course, to give direction to our respective governments,” said the White House national security adviser. Jake sullivanJake Sullivan Biden Raises Human Rights With China’s Xi During Four-Hour Meeting With Biden, Xi Holds ‘Candid’ Discussion Amid High Tensions Night Defense And National Security – Presented By Boeing – Russia’s Top Weapons Tests Fuel Up tensions MORE during remarks at the Brookings Institution on Tuesday.

Biden told reporters in New Hampshire that his administration will establish four separate working groups to hold a dialogue with China on “a wide range of issues.”

Sullivan noted that there would be follow-up talks on global energy supply, climate change and Taiwan.

Biden, who faces pressure from Republicans and Democrats alike to be tough on Beijing, raised controversial issues such as Taiwan and human rights, the White House said.

But he also stressed the need for the United States and China to work together on urgent global issues such as curbing climate change, defeating the coronavirus pandemic and restoring the nuclear deal with Iran.

Despite the tensions, the engagement between Biden and Xi seemed pleasant, a departure from the months in which the two countries exchanged blows.

Just two weeks ago, Biden harshly chided Xi for not attending the United Nations climate summit in Glasgow, predicting that Beijing’s global influence would diminish.

Biden used his personal touch during the meeting, mentioning at the beginning that he and Xi spent time together in China when they were both vice presidents.

Xi hailed Biden as his “old friend,” for which Biden thanked him, despite the White House insisting that Biden does not regard the Chinese leader as a friend.

The “respectful and direct” conversation was a departure from previous attempts by the Biden administration to open a dialogue with Chinese officials.

An initial meeting in Alaska between officials that included Sullivan and the Secretary of State Antony blinkAntony BlinkenBiden Raises Human Rights With China’s Xi During Four-Hour Meeting With Biden, Xi Holds ‘Candid’ Discussion Amid High Tensions Republicans Call For Dozens Of Biden Officials To Testify On Afghanistan MORE it was clouded by accusations from the Chinese that the United States was intimidating other nations after Sullivan said the relationship would be one of “stiff competition.”

Since those early talks, China has become more aggressive in flying military jets over Taiwan and tested a hypersonic missile that caught the attention of US defense officials. Beijing has also hampered efforts by the United States and global groups to learn more about the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Biden administration has called China’s treatment of Uighur Muslims in the Xinjiang region “genocide” and could launch a “diplomatic boycott” of the Winter Olympics in China early next year, something that would increase tensions.

There have also been lingering economic tensions dating back to the Trump administration, which imposed tariffs in an escalating trade war, most of which remain in effect today.

With so much at stake, experts said the fact that Biden and Xi could sit and talk for four hours could be seen as a step forward.

“I think it was an important turning point. We have many differences between us, and the US and China have many differences between them. Leaders have to talk to each other about these things, ”said Matt Goodman, senior vice president for economics at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“In hindsight, it might be seen as a little more meaningful than what people see it overnight,” added Goodman, who worked in the Obama administration.

Sullivan said Tuesday that the two countries agreed to intensify their engagement with Taiwan, which officials said was an extended topic of conversation during the virtual meeting. Biden reiterated the administration’s commitment to the “one China” policy and reminded Xi that as a senator he voted for the Taiwan Relations Act, a law that commits the United States to providing weapons to Taiwan for its defense, they said. officials.

Michael O’Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said the meeting would reduce the likelihood of the two countries going to war over Taiwan.

“The number one priority has to be reducing the chances of war on Taiwan,” O’Hanlon said. “I think he succeeded in that, at least to the extent that the misperception could have been a driver, rather than something else.”

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