JIN DING/CHINA DAILY
Editor's Note: The widely anticipated meeting between President Xi Jinping and his US counterpart, Joe Biden, in San Francisco on Wednesday, is of utmost importance not only for maintaining stable Sino-US ties but also for its significant global impact. Experts share their views with China Daily. Excerpts follow:
Imperative to return to right track
President Xi Jinping and US President Joe Biden have concluded their hours-long meeting, touching upon topics such as artificial intelligence, military communication, and control of the flow of fentanyl, springing hope that Sino-US ties can return to the right track.
But we should also wake up to the complexity of bilateral relations. That the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission's 2023 report, released just a day before the meeting, mentioned that "the result of high-level meetings between the United States and China has been merely the promise of further meetings", not to forget some US media's biased reports on China, show that a lot needs to be done to improve bilateral ties.
It is imperative for the two countries to return to the track of managed competition, which is conducive for China, as well as the US. Cooperation on trade will also boost employment and development in the US while China, too, needs a stable external environment as much as ever to stabilize its economy.
That the two largest economies have arrived at a consensus on AI and climate change, a new ballast stone apart from trade, is encouraging. In the lasting path to restoring and stabilizing ties, China and the US need to look for more starting points to meet each other halfway.
Wang Yiwei, director of the Institute of International Affairs at Renmin University of China
Taiwan question still crucial
The Xi-Biden meeting marks a pivotal event, which signifies stabilizing Sino-US relations. The significance of this meeting lies in the shared understanding achieved through the "return to Bali, heading to San Francisco "framework. Particularly, the key lies in the need for the US to align its words with actions and uphold commitments.
A notable disparity exists in the consistency of actions between China and the US. While China demonstrates coherence across various domains, the US exhibits discrepancies, notably in areas such as legislation, administration, and the military, especially on the Taiwan question. The root cause of the US' inconsistency lies in different political interest groups exploiting the Taiwan question for their gains.
For the future, the US must strive for internal consistency and coherence across sectors to stabilize Sino-US relations. The ongoing deterioration of this relationship threatens the interests of both nations and can have repercussions globally. Achieving internal consistency and keeping commitments is crucial for the US to restore its image. Just as Beijing repeatedly emphasizes, the Taiwan question is a core interest, and any action that infringes on China's core interests will provoke strong opposition from the Chinese government and people, even jeopardizing Sino-US friendship.
Zhu Songling, a professor at the Institute of Taiwan Studies, Beijing Union University
Sunnylands statement penetrating boundaries
The world applauded revitalizing of Sino-US ties, particularly for striving to meet the targets set by the Paris Agreement and trying to realize the dream of a common sustainable future.
The overarching theme of the Sunnylands Statement on Tuesday — issued after the climate envoys' talks — is cooperation, which signifies the strong will of both countries to work together and to join the global efforts in combating climate change and achieving sustainability transitions.
There will be at least five large-scale cooperative carbon capture, utilization and sequestration projects each by 2030, technical working group cooperation to address methane and other non-CO2 GHG emissions, and subnational climate cooperation among states, provinces, and cities tackling emissions from the power, transportation, buildings and waste sectors.
Furthermore, policy dialogues will be carried out to facilitate energy transition, reduce GHG emissions, develop the circular economy, improve resource efficiency, enhance subnational cooperation, and make COP28 a success. Particularly, the China-US Energy Efficiency Forum will be restarted to deepen policy exchanges.
By translating the strong desire for cooperation into tangible collaborative mechanisms and actions such as information exchange, experience sharing, knowledge transfer, and capacity building, China and the US are on the cusp of achieving a shared and sustainable future.
Li Wanxin, an associate professor on environment studies, City University of Hong Kong
Reconciling of irreconcilable differences
The US and China's policymakers cannot successfully protect their own nation's economic growth and national security if one or both superpowers relentlessly create financial, economic, and military confrontations that destroy the other nation's economic growth and national security.
After Xi-Biden meeting, both countries' presidents must encourage their nation's policymakers, think tanks, and students to focus on how relations between the two largest economies and military superpowers can begin to get incrementally better instead of catastrophically worse.
The US and China's presidents share the responsibility of enabling current and future US and Chinese policymakers to discover how the over 1.4 billion and 330 million people they represent can peacefully coexist in our fragile shared climate and financial systems.
Mutually shared prosperity or mutually shared destruction are the choices confronting US and Chinese policymakers. But 21st century financial and military technology makes superpower conflict unwinnable.
John Milligan-Whyte, chairman of the America-China Partnership Foundation
China-EU ties should also improve
The Xi-Biden meeting is an achievement in itself because after years of trade conflicts between the United States and China, the meeting sparks optimism about the possibility of cooperation between the two great powers.
China has never thought of a multipolar world order without the US in it, and its position at the meeting is guided by this approach. The US and China share many things in the global world, such as the UN SDGs. No one can change the US leadership but itself.
The meeting could have a sobering effect on the EU, which, since 2019, has made the US approach to China the basis of its foreign policy, which now includes protectionism, forming trade blocs, and global supply distraction. Such a policy is harmful to the interests of the EU's citizens.
Although the EU is seen as a leading practitioner and supporter of multilateralism and a multipolar world order, its US-style approach to China has put Brussels in a bizarre position where it is helping strengthen a unipolar world order.
In Europe, people feel the meeting between Biden and Xi will help to significantly improve relations between the EU and China, something Brussels is not able to do on its own. It is sad for the EU that its ties with China can be improved only after Sino-US relationship improves.
Jasna Plevnik, president of the Geoeconomic Forum Croatia
More constructive media roles needed
The important meeting in San Francisco has brought a glimmer of hope to improvement of ties between the US and China. However, after the meeting, the media should play a more constructive role.
Chinese media has consistently tried to enhance Sino-US relations by sharing accurate and optimistic updates that highlight the positive prospects for mutual cooperation and development. In contrast, the US and Western media often adopt a hostile approach toward China. The Western and US media exhibit bias, propagate a negative narrative, and engage in spreading propaganda against China.
To recalibrate this narrative, there is a pressing need for Western and US media outlets to prioritize communication and collaboration. Embracing a strategy that involves tightly seizing the mainstream narrative and directions of bilateral relations, they need to demonstrate a willingness to respect the core interests and concerns of their respective countries. By promoting mutually beneficial cooperation, the media can contribute to a return to normalcy in bilateral ties, benefiting not only the two nations but also peoples in both countries.
Khalid Taimur Akram, executive director of the Pakistan Research Center for a Community with Shared Future, Islamabad
Moving beyond decoupling talk
The much-anticipated Xi-Biden meeting comes on the heels of a flurry of high-level official interactions to stabilize the fraught Sino-US relations in recent months.
All eyes are now on how the two leaders take measures to reset Sino-US ties and address global concerns. On the global economic front, China stays committed to upholding an open and inclusive multilateral cooperation, as reiterated by President Xi Jinping.
Having evolved from a scenario of the US threatening "decoupling" and "de-risking "under the cloak of national security, to recent assurances of "no decoupling", the wobbling Sino-US economic relations need a more reassuring commitment and actions from the US side.
Ong Tee Keat, president of the Belt and Road Initiative Caucus for the Asia-Pacific
Fentanyl crisis needs US' systemic action
At their meeting, both President Xi and President Biden agreed to restart bilateral cooperation to combat the worldwide manufacture and trafficking of illicit drugs, including synthetic drugs such as fentanyl, and the establishment of a working group. That will no doubt greatly help the United States and the whole world tackle the drug menace.
More US citizens than ever are dying from fentanyl overuse. The country is facing complicated challenges, including from the growing sales by pharmaceutical companies, over-prescribing by doctors and the government's inability to cope with the situation.
Despite baseless accusations framing China for the fentanyl crisis in the US, China has been cooperating on the issue, right from declaring the entire range of fentanyl-related substances as controlled substances way back in 2019.
The allegation that China failed to prevent fentanyl from entering the US is false; the Chinese government has taken active measures to address US concerns. China also keeps seeking cooperation from the US on international law enforcement of drug control.
The US should realize that the crisis can be resolved by addressing the root causes of drug use, expanding access to addiction treatment and harm-reduction strategies, and curbing the entry of illicit opioids into the United States.
Ma Wei, an assistant researcher at the Institute of American Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences
Deeds speak louder in military communication
It is important to stop the deterioration of Sino-US relations and restore Sino-US exchanges, including at the military level, to manage the risk of conflict. The meeting between the Chinese and US presidents is an opportunity for the two countries to ease tensions and promote talks to avoid miscalculations and create favorable conditions to resume bilateral military communication.
However, the US must stop sending conflicting signals if it sincerely wants to restore the military communication. Washington has launched escalating and multifaceted provocations against China in recent years, making bilateral military relations hit a low ebb. In particular, in August 2022, the US military provided cover to then US House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi during her provocative visit to China's Taiwan despite Beijing's strong opposition.
China adheres to the principle that its sovereignty, dignity and core interests are inviolable, with the most important and extremely sensitive issue being the Taiwan question. The US has said many times that it adheres to the one-China policy and is willing to conduct military exchanges and cooperation in a candid and open manner.
It is hoped that the US military can take the opportunity to match its words with deeds and push forward the normalization of Sino-US military exchanges.
Li Daguang, a former military scholar
See a true China
At their meeting in San Francisco, the two presidents agreed to promote people-to-people exchanges. The Chinese leader reiterated the value and importance of people-to-people communication in fostering understanding from a more personal and cultural point of view. David Haubert, California's county supervisor for Alameda county, said in a recent interview that he has visited China 16 times and he sees the merits of it.
When I made my first and quite unexpected trip to China way back in 1999, the gentleman from Southwest China's Chongqing city who had invited me said "forget everything you think you know about China. None of it is true." After I landed and saw with my own eyes, communicating with the local people, I could easily see his point.
Unfortunately, the political class in the United States is in a self-serving contest to get elected more by manipulation and PR rhetoric than by fulfilling its responsibility to govern for the people of their country, which includes encouraging and promoting people-to-people communication, people sharing their personal stories and lives and culture with one another. As an Italian-American living in China with a Chinese family for over 20 years, I am proud to live in a country rising in peace.
Mario Cavolo, a non-resident senior fellow with the CCG
Sino-US rapprochement vital for world
Being the two largest economies in the world, the relationship between China and the US can inevitably affect almost every nation in the world. The interdependence of every nation on a deeply entangled supply chain and trade logistics makes it imperative that these two powers cooperate and avoid friction and outright antagonism.
It is undeniable that US policies are directly or indirectly shaping the European Union's relationship with China and other countries and regions in the world. The Ukraine crisis, where the US is a key player, being the largest supplier of finances and weapons to Ukraine, has brought the EU increasingly close to the US.
The EU's most clear shift toward closer coordination with the US came with the EU CHIPS Act, which entered into force in September 2023, imposing restrictions on China's access to the EU semiconductor market. This regulation followed the US CHIPS and Science Act of 2022.
Another example of US influence on European decision-making is the new position of the Italian government regarding its memorandum of understanding with China on jointly building the Belt and Road signed in 2019. Italian experts hint that Italy may not renew the MoU on the BRI because of the US pressure. If Italy truly withdraws from the deal, it will be a setback, not for China, but for Italy and the EU. The BRI is growing, and more than 150 countries and regions and 30 international organizations have cooperated under this framework.
This EU stance and others, which is counterproductive for the nations and economies of the EU, has to be broken for the benefit of all. An easing of the tensions between the US and China will contribute to a change in the EU policy, whether we like it or not.
Hussein Askary, vice-president of the Belt and Road Institute in Sweden
Global challenges need peaceful approaches
China is trying to ensure that Sino-US ties remain within the sphere of competition rather than evolve into a conflict.
China prefers a policy of quiet diplomacy, just as it tried for resolving the Ukraine crisis, or by helping reestablish diplomatic ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran, a long-time US dream that serves the interests of both the Middle East and the US. Even regarding the current crisis in Gaza, we find China committed to supporting a diplomatic solution through the involvement of the UN Security Council.
Hopefully the Xi-Biden meeting can help the US realize the extent of danger if the US continues to increase pressure on China. If China responds to the US’ provocations, it will create a tense and unstable world full of problems and crises that will affect everyone and everyone will lose.
Therefore, this summit comes to put all these challenges on the table in front of the two presidents to try and find a common path and understanding that safeguard the interests of both parties and reduce fears and challenges.
Hisham AbuBakr Metwally Mohamed, first economist and researcher at the Egyptian Ministry of Trade and Industry
Bilateral ties, world's direction
The type of relationship that the United States and China will establish will be instrumental in determining the direction the world takes.
The US has damaged its position from the point of view of the Global South, and is increasingly relying on NATO to maintain its hegemonic position.
China, on the other hand, is being recognized by the Global South as a country of dialogue, diplomatic stability and one that supports an international order with the UN and the people at its center. The difference in approach is becoming increasingly clear. The problem is that the US diplomatic lexicon does not know how to deal with China’s economic rise and a proactive China in the world.
What the two leaders need to do from now on is to find common ground, learn from the small diplomatic successes achieved, use these achievements as a reference and, little by little, try to move forward on more complex issues. First of all, the most important thing is that both leaders need to reaffirm and respect the red lines that each one should not cross.
Evandro Menezes de Carvalho, head of the Center for Brazil-China Studies of the Getulio Vargas Foundation School of Law in Brazil