The meeting may not lead to anything concrete, and that's okay: for Joe Biden and Xi Jinping, the main thing on Wednesday will be to ensure that the Sino-American relationship, tense to the limit the extreme, remains under control.
The American president is to meet with his counterpart for several hours, near San Francisco, California, on the sidelines of a summit of Apec, the Economic Cooperation for the Asia-Pacific .
According to Voice of America, the meeting, scheduled for 6:45 p.m. GMT, will take place in an upscale and bucolic estate, about forty kilometers from the famous Golden Gate Bridge.
Just before this tête-à-tête, the second in person since the election of the 80-year-old Democrat, the tone was intended to be conciliatory.
– No “decoupling” –
“We are not trying to decouple of China”, assured Joe Biden on Tuesday, for whom the objective is to “be able to pick up the phone and talk to each other if there is a crisis”.
However, he considered that Mr. Xi's China had “real problems” in the face of “the reestablishment of American leadership in the world.”
“We are opposed to a definition of Sino-American relations in terms competition”, said a spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The two leaders, who have known each other for several years, had discussed for three hours on the sidelines of a summit of the G20, in Indonesia, a year ago.
The relationship has since turned sour, in particular with the flight over American territory by a Chinese balloon at the start of the year.
Joe Biden irritated Beijing by highlighting in February the “huge problems” that according to him, meets China economically.
– “Encirclement” –
In March, Xi Jinping criticized, with rare virulence, an American strategy of “encirclement” as Washington strengthens its alliances in the Asia-Pacific .
China denounces the sanctions imposed on it by the United States in the technological field, while Washington protests against Beijing's “provocative” actions in the South China Sea.
Even the famous “panda diplomacy” paid the price of the cold snap: on November 8, the three giant pandas from the Washington Zoo left for China, marking the end of an animal practice -diplomatic began in 1972.
The tone between Washington and Beijing softened enough in the summer to allow the organization of the Californian face-to-face.
– Israel, Ukraine –
Joe Biden “wants to ensure that we manage this very important bilateral relationship in the most responsible manner possible,” White House spokesperson John Kirby said on Tuesday. .
Especially before a potentially tumultuous 2024, with a presidential election in Taiwan, and in the United States – in which Joe Biden is running.
The status of the island, of which Beijing claims sovereignty, and to which Washington provides substantial military assistance, remains a central subject of friction.
The United States also asks China not to escalate the major international crises, and in particular the war between Israel and Hamas, which Joe Biden does not want to see spread.
“They have lines of communication in the region that we don’t have,” John Kirby said, referring to the relationship between Beijing and Iran.
As far as Ukraine is concerned, the United States certainly does not expect China to cut ties with Russia, but at least hopes that it will refrain from supplying it with weapons.
– AI and fentanyl –
If the two parties have managed to temper expectations around Thursday's meeting, analysts are speculating on a few announcements.
The American president wants to restore military communications between the two nuclear powers, suspended for more than a year.
“No matter what else happens in the relationship, these army-to-army ties must remain intact”, had American national security advisor Jake Sullivan argued on Monday.
Joe Biden and Xi Jinping could also commit to limiting the military applications of artificial intelligence, or even act together against fentanyl trafficking, a powerful synthetic opiate produced massively in China, responsible for tens of thousands of overdoses each year in the United States.
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