(HONG KONG) — The view from China on Wednesday’s meeting between President Xi Jinping and President Joe Biden is somewhat upbeat, despite signs that the bar for success is low and the meeting is broadly seen as only another chance to install “guard rails” to prevent relations from sliding even further.
Some observers hope that getting relations back on track will help China get its economy back on track too.
“China will need to convince the United States that China does not want to be the next top dog in the world, Victor Gao, a former Chinese diplomat who translated for the late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping, told ABC News.
State news agency Xinhua is touting “Xiplomacy” and the need to “build bridges” and “coexist peacefully,” but Gao said he is “moderately optimistic” about the chances the meeting will thaw China-U.S. relations.
“China has no desire, no interest, no capability to impose its way of life and its political system onto the United States,” he said. “Meaning your God for you, my God, for me. Let us live and let live. Let’s engage with each other for mutual benefit rather than for mutual destruction.”
The meeting is expected to take place midday in San Francisco, where Pacific Rim leaders are meeting for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.
Here are a few key policy points Xi and Biden are expected to discuss.
Looming large over this meeting is Taiwan’s presidential election in just two months. Xi will likely seek a firm pledge that the U.S. will not encourage Taiwan to pursue formal independence, especially with “troublemaker” William Lai, whom China despises, as the front-runner.
“I’m sure President Xi Jinping will reiterate China’s policy about Taiwan, emphasizing that there is only one China and Taiwan is part of China,” Gao said. “And he will also urge the US president and the US government at large that don’t hollow out the one-China policy because there will be a point of no return if the United States continues to promote Taiwan separatism or Taiwan independence and go beyond the point of no return.”
He said he hopes Biden “will listen very carefully” as Xi restates “China’s firm, stern position about Taiwan.”
Xi will be going into this meeting with his economy front of mind. China is growing frustrated by what it sees as the U.S. refusing to relax trade restrictions on export controls, sanctions and tariffs.
Chen Dongxiao, head of Shanghai intentional relationship research center, said in Shanghai online news outlet, The Paper, that even though American domestic political ecology is “complex and turbulent,” the U.S. has made adjustments that show it has “a more rational and pragmatic view on how to maintain stable and healthy economic and trade relations with China.”
Gao added, “This is the one area that President Biden and President Xi Jinping can really gather together to talk about cooperation rather than manhandling each other.”
Wars in Ukraine and Israel
Wars in the Ukraine and the Middle East have complicated international relations, including those between the U.S. and China.
China claims to be neutral in both conflicts — and is walking a cautious line on both — but the West has criticized Xi’s Xi’s coziness with Russian President Vladimir Putin, his calls for changes to the liberal world order and China’s growing ties with Hamas-supporter Iran.
Ways to work together
Observers, including Gao, say they’re hoping the meeting may push the two countries into a place where they allow each other “greater convenience.”
“The two leaders can talk about and make decisions to achieve, for example, opening up U.S. consulate general in Chengdu and allowing the Chinese consulate in Houston to open up,” Goa said.
Doing so may enable American journalists operating in China and their counterparts working in the United States “to do their job better with greater convenience, rather than hurdle them with all the hassles and all the inconveniences,” Gao said.
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