President Joe Biden announced that the United States and China have agreed to restart military-to-military communications, aiming to alleviate increasing tensions between the two nations. He stated that they were returning to direct, open, and clear communications following a rare meeting with China’s President Xi Jinping in California on Wednesday.
It marked the first occasion in over a year that the two leaders had engaged in face-to-face conversation. However, indications of tension persisted, with Biden reiterating his perspective that Mr. Xi is a dictator. The comment was later criticized by China’s foreign ministry; however, they seem to have not detracted from what both parties are characterizing as a predominantly successful meeting.
Biden also mentioned that both leaders had concurred on setting up a direct line of communication between them. During a press conference after the summit, held at a historic country estate near San Francisco, Biden emphasized that the absence of communication is a potential source of accidents and highlighted that both presidents can now communicate directly and be immediately heard by each other.
Initiating a Fresh Start
According to Biden, the talks on November 15, spanning approximately four hours, were characterized as “some of the most constructive and productive discussions we’ve had.”
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, during his press briefing, described the summit as “strategic,” “historic,” and “direction-setting,” emphasizing its “strategic significance and profound influence.”
The central theme of the summit was a comprehensive examination of China-U.S. relations, establishing the framework for the future dynamics of the relationship. The United States perceives China as its foremost “strategic competitor,” a characterization China is eager to redefine by asserting its role as a collaborative partner.
As per Wang’s account, the meeting resulted in a consensus on seven fundamental principles to govern China-U.S. relations: mutual respect, peaceful coexistence, continuous communication, conflict prevention, adherence to the U.N. Charter, collaboration on shared interests, and responsible management of competition.
Neither side is fundamentally altering its stance. Both readouts included extensive segments where Biden and Xi reiterated their positions on enduring points of contention, ranging from Taiwan and export controls for China to human rights and “freedom of navigation and overflight” for the U.S.
China & U.S.’ Strained Relations
Escalating tensions between the two nations, spanning issues such as tariffs, semiconductor chips, surveillance, and China’s heightened militarization in the South China Sea, have prompted U.S. companies to explore the expansion or relocation of their China-based operations. This trend has seen businesses considering moves to Mexico, Southeast Asia, India, and even back within the United States in recent years.
CEOs from Silicon Valley have played a significant role as investors in China. For instance, Apple’s partner, Foxconn, manufactures the majority of its cell phones in southern China, and Tesla achieved the distinction of being the first foreign company to operate a wholly-owned business in China dedicated to car manufacturing.
Nevertheless, the Chinese government’s crackdown on both its domestic tech CEOs and foreign executives has raised apprehensions among U.S. companies.
Tensions between the U.S. and China have intensified in recent years, initially starting with tariffs during the Trump administration and extending to encompass broader tech restrictions under the Biden administration.
A dispute in early February, involving an alleged Chinese spy balloon flying in U.S. airspace, highlighted the precarious state of relations. This incident prompted both countries to suspend already limited high-level talks.
However, the sentiment experienced a positive shift during the summer when U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken undertook a high-stakes visit to Beijing in June. Subsequent visits from several other senior officials further contributed to this positive trend.
What Does the Future Hold?
After a hiatus of several years, cooperation on counternarcotics is being reinitiated between the People’s Republic of China and the United States. The focus is on reducing the flow of precursor chemicals and pill presses that contribute to the fentanyl crisis. Despite the initial cordiality displayed during the meeting, it is gradually becoming apparent that both sides maintained their positions on the Taiwan issue.
According to a Chinese foreign ministry readout, President Xi conveyed to President Biden the request to “stop arming Taiwan,” emphasizing that the U.S. should cease supporting Taiwan and endorse China’s peaceful reunification. President Xi asserted that China will realize reunification, and this is unstoppable, as reported in the readout. Additionally, the Chinese state news agency Xinhua disclosed that President Xi informed President Biden about the adverse impact of U.S. sanctions on Chinese firms, which were perceived as detrimental to China’s ‘legitimate interests.’
Furthermore, Xinhua reported that both nations have reached an agreement to engage in talks on artificial intelligence, as confirmed during the summit between President Biden and President Xi Jinping. The news agency stated that Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Joe Biden agreed Wednesday to establish China-U.S. government talks on artificial intelligence (AI).
Xinhua also conveyed that there is a decision to recommence high-level talks between the militaries of both countries. Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Joe Biden agreed Wednesday to resume, based on equality and respect, high-level military-to-military communication, as reported by Xinhua.