What Came Out of the Biden-Xi Summit

Modest agreements on fentanyl, military communications were made
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 16, 2023 1:00 AM CST
What Came Out of the Biden-Xi Summit
President Joe Biden listens during a meeting with China's President President Xi Jinping at the Filoli Estate in Woodside, Calif., Wednesday, Nov, 15, 2023, on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperative conference.   (Doug Mills/The New York Times via AP, Pool)

US President Biden and China's Xi Jinping emerged Wednesday from their first face-to-face meeting in a year vowing to stabilize their fraught relationship and showcasing modest agreements to combat illegal fentanyl and re-establish military communications. But there were still deep differences on economic competition and global security threats, the AP reports. The most assuring takeaway from the meeting for Biden was that if either man had a concern, "we should pick up the phone and call one another and we'll take the call. That's important progress," he said in a news conference following the talks. The two leaders spent four hours together at a bucolic Northern California estate—in meetings, a working lunch and a garden stroll—intent on showing the world that while they are global economic competitors they're not locked in a winner-take-all faceoff.

The US president told Xi: "I think it's paramount that you and I understand each other clearly, leader-to-leader, with no misconceptions or miscommunications. We have to ensure competition does not veer into conflict." Some highlights of what came out of the meeting, which on the sidelines of the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference:

  • They reached expected agreements to curb illicit fentanyl production and to reopen military ties, Biden said. Many of the chemicals used to make synthetic fentanyl come from China to cartels that traffic the powerful narcotic into the US, which is facing an overdose crisis.
  • Top military leaders will resume talks, Biden said, an increasingly important move particularly as unsafe or unprofessional incidents between the two nations' ships and aircraft have spiked.
  • The two leaders had a significant back and forth over Taiwan, with Biden chiding China over its massive military build-up around Taiwan and Xi telling Biden he had no plans to invade the island, according to a US official who spoke on condition of anonymity to detail the private talks. Biden, the official said, declared the US was committed to continuing to help Taiwan defend itself and maintain deterrence against a potential Chinese attack, and also called on China to avoid meddling in the island's elections next year. The official described the Taiwan portion of the talks as "clear-headed" and "not heated."
  • Biden also called on Xi to use his influence with Iran to make clear that Tehran, and its proxies, should not take steps that would lead to an expansion of the Israel-Hamas war.
  • According to a statement released by China Central Television, the state broadcaster, Xi was most focused on Taiwan and the US sanctions and restrictions against Chinese products and businesses. Xi said he and Biden also agreed to establish dialogues on artificial intelligence and stressed the urgency for the two countries to cope with the climate crisis, the state broadcaster reported.
(More US-China relations stories.)

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