Biden’s Failure To Secure Summit With Xi Jinping

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Biden’s Failure To Secure Summit With Xi Jinping Xi Jinping comes when the two powers are going through strained relations. 

The US president suggested the summit to Xi to shake up the gridlock in US-China relations. Still, various people briefed on the call said the Chinese leader declined and urged Washington to adopt a more conciliatory tone toward Beijing.

The White House billed the call — which took place at Biden’s request seven months after their initial phone discussion — as an opportunity to gauge Xi’s willingness to engage seriously following several diplomatic encounters between US and Chinese officials that produced little progress.

According to five sources familiar with the call, while Xi used less hostile language than his top diplomats this year, his overarching message to Biden was that the United States should tone down its rhetoric. Biden has taken a hard line against China, condemning its treatment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang, its crackdown on Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement, and its military action against Taiwan.

US-China Strained Relations Behind Biden’s Failure To Secure Summit With Xi Jinping

Beijing’s response has been to accuse the Biden administration of interfering with China’s key strategic interests. Xi’s engagement with President Biden may be politically damaging if he is not assured of securing something from Biden. According to the German Marshall Fund’s Bonnie Glaser, a sixth source familiar with the matter, Biden floated the summit as one of several options for subsequent engagement with Xi. The US president did not anticipate a swift response.

According to one US official briefed on the meeting, while Xi expressed no interest in convening a summit, the White House assumed this was partially due to concerns about Covid-19. Xi has not traveled out of China since he visited Myanmar in early 2020, before the pandemic’s onset.

The US had contemplated holding a summit at the G20 meeting in Italy in October, but Chinese media have indicated that Xi may not attend. He will also be absent from this week’s Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Tajikistan, which will bring together China, Russia, India, Pakistan, and central Asian countries to address Afghanistan.

Another source intimately involved with the Biden-Xi call stated that it was possible that the Chinese president did not wish to commit at this time. According to another authority, the two sides could agree to a video call — an upgrade from a phone call — during the G20.

Jake Sullivan’s Take On Biden’s Failure To Secure A Summit With Chinese President Xi Jinping

Meanwhile, three sources indicated that the US was disappointed by Xi’s apparent lack of interest in convening a summit. The White House has so far refrained from commenting, but US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan later stated that the narrative of the Biden-Xi call was inaccurate.

“This is an inaccurate representation of the call, Period.” Sullivan stated in a statement, “As we previously stated, the presidents discussed the pivotal role of private discussions between the two leaders, and we will respect that.” Chinese reports highlighted that Biden initiated the call and reported Xi saying that US policies had created “serious difficulties.”

Further, they stated that the US “looks forward to further discussions and cooperation” with China, implying that Washington was pushing for engagement more aggressively than Beijing.

Biden's Failure To Secure Summit With Xi Jinping
Biden’s Failure To Secure Summit With Xi Jinping

Taiwan-China Axis To Biden’s Failure To Secure Summit With Xi Jinping

A day following the call, Biden reportedly considered allowing Taiwan to change its US representative office from Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office to “Taiwan Representative Office.” The Taiwanese downplay China’s threat and lay their faith in “Daddy America.”

China strongly objected to the report, fearful that such a name change would enhance Taiwan’s claim to sovereignty. According to Bonnie Glaser, a China expert at the German Marshall Fund, interpreting Xi’s reluctance to hold an in-person summit is problematic.

“It may be politically damaging for Xi to engage President Biden without the assurance that he will derive something in return. He may conclude that it is safer to have interactions at lower levels during this period, “Glaser explained. “However, there is also the Covid aspect to consider, and we are unsure how much weight to give it.”

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