The US and China are moving closer to setting up a meeting between presidents Joe Biden and Xi Jinping at next month’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, according to people familiar with the matter, though officials in Beijing haven’t yet signed off.
(Bloomberg) — The US and China are moving closer to setting up a meeting between presidents Joe Biden and Xi Jinping at next month’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, according to people familiar with the matter, though officials in Beijing haven’t yet signed off.
Advance teams for both countries have been scouting meeting sites in San Francisco before a likely encounter, according to people familiar with the matter. But Xi, who skipped last month’s Group of 20 summit in India and whose government has expressed frustration with recent comments by the American president, hasn’t committed to the meeting.
A US official described the meeting as pretty certain to the Washington Post on Thursday, but the White House’s National Security Council downplayed that characterization.
A spokesperson for the National Security Council said Thursday evening that while Biden looks forward to a meeting, nothing has been confirmed.
A summit between the two leaders would mark the first time they have spoken since meeting during the G-20 Summit in Bali, Indonesia last November. Relations deteriorated shortly after that exchange when an alleged Chinese spy balloon flew over the US.
A flurry of diplomacy in recent months has steadied ties between the world’s two largest economies, with the Biden administration sending a stream of cabinet-level officials to Beijing to pave the way for a leaders’ summit. A bipartisan group of US senators is heading to Beijing this weekend to discuss the investment climate for US businesses in China, among other issues.
Under normal circumstances, a one-on-one meeting between the two leaders on the sidelines of a major gathering like the APEC summit would be routine — even obligatory. The fact China hasn’t committed to such an event even now underscores the fragility of the efforts to ease tension.
China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi last month called on the US to “create more favorable conditions for a smooth APEC meeting.” Previously, the Chinese foreign ministry asked Washington to allow Hong Kong’s sanctioned leader, Chief Executive John Lee, to attend, in response to a report Biden planned to bar him from the event.
Lee and other top Hong Kong and mainland Chinese officials were put on Washington’s Specially Designated Nationals list in 2020 for cracking down on civil liberties in the city. Generally, US people or entities are banned from engaging with those on the list.
The US’ diplomatic efforts to ease tensions with China were also undercut in June by Biden’s off-the-cuff remarks likening Xi to a dictator, comments Beijing condemned as “ridiculous and irresponsible.”
Any Xi-Biden meeting would unfold as the US faces the possibility of a government shutdown and as Beijing contends with economic turmoil and investigations of corruption in China’s military.
China’s foreign minister is expected to travel to Washington this month to further lay the groundwork for a potential leaders’ get-together, people familiar with the matter said.
The Biden administration is also set to announce updated curbs for semiconductors, a move that is likely to anger the Chinese government if it comes ahead of a face-to-face gathering in November.
–With assistance from Alan Wong.
(Updates with China’s conditions for a Xi-Biden meeting from 7th paragraph.)
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