President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping met face-to-face for the first time in a year, and their four-hour meeting in Northern California yielded what Biden described as “important progress” in addressing the complex issues that have strained relations between the two superpowers.
Xi’s last visit to the United States occurred in 2017 when he met with then-President Trump in Florida. Since then, the Biden administration has grappled with intense economic competition between the two nations, exacerbated by geopolitical tensions related to Taiwan’s sovereignty, the Ukraine conflict, and the ongoing debate over the origins of the coronavirus.
Earlier this year, concerns rose when Chinese spy balloons were spotted over the continental United States, raising fears of a potential conflict. The summit aimed to alleviate these tensions and foster a more constructive dialogue between the two nations. President Biden emphasized his responsibility to manage these issues rationally and prevent them from escalating into conflicts.
Key takeaways from the meeting and the subsequent press conference include:
- China’s Commitment on Fentanyl: President Biden addressed the alarming issue of fentanyl overdoses in the United States, with approximately 70,000 Americans dying each year due to this powerful opioid. Fentanyl ingredients and pill presses often flow from China to Mexico and then into the U.S. While it remains unclear what specific actions China will take, President Xi acknowledged the problem and expressed a commitment to addressing it. The U.S. and China collaborated on a plan to target companies producing fentanyl precursors, aiming to curtail the supply of these dangerous substances.
- Restored Military Communication: After China suspended military-to-military communication with the United States following a visit by then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan, an important channel for preventing escalation was severed. President Biden announced the resumption of military-to-military talks between Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin and his Chinese counterpart. Additionally, Biden reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to the One China policy regarding Taiwan, aiming to maintain stability in the region.
- Artificial Intelligence Discussion: Both the U.S. and China aspire to lead global efforts in developing artificial intelligence, a field with transformative potential but also associated risks. President Biden pledged to organize discussions among experts to address safety and risk issues related to artificial intelligence. However, the extent of collaboration between the two nations remains uncertain, given concerns over intellectual property theft and the secretive nature of China’s leadership.
In summary, the Biden-Xi meeting marked a significant step toward addressing bilateral tensions and fostering cooperation on critical issues. While challenges remain, the leaders expressed their commitment to managing conflicts rationally and seeking peaceful solutions to global challenges.