In a stark departure from his last visit to the U.S., Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives in San Francisco for the Apec summit under the shadow of a faltering economy and growing internal challenges.
Once boasting a flourishing economic model, China now grapples with a post-Covid slump, a credit crisis in the property market, and a ballooning domestic debt bomb. Crackdowns on various economic sectors, including prominent businessmen, have sown uncertainty, triggering an exodus of foreign investors and companies seeking more stable opportunities elsewhere.
The meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden becomes crucial as China navigates these economic headwinds. Li Mingjiang, an associate professor at Singapore’s S Rajaratnam School of International Studies, emphasizes that China’s economic challenges will significantly influence the negotiations.
As both leaders converge in Silicon Valley, speculation arises about the possibility of announcing a working group to discuss artificial intelligence—a move China hopes will dissuade the U.S. from extending technology export restrictions.
Amidst the economic turbulence, Xi Jinping seeks reassurance from Biden to stabilize trade relations, addressing concerns about tariffs, blacklisting, and access to advanced technology.
The summit unfolds against a backdrop of uncertainty, with young Chinese facing skyrocketing unemployment, adopting the term “lying flat” to convey a sense of resignation, while Xi grapples with unexplained disappearances within his leadership team.
Global Tensions and Diplomatic Challenges
As Xi Jinping and Joe Biden engage in high-stakes talks, global tensions and diplomatic challenges take center stage. The South China Sea, Taiwan, and U.S. support for Taiwanese independence loom as potential flashpoints, underscoring the delicate balance both leaders must strike.
Observers note that while China faces economic pressures, Xi aims to portray strength in the face of American challenges. The unexplained removals of key leaders and military top brass add a layer of uncertainty, prompting speculation about pervasive corruption or political purges within Xi’s carefully-constructed power structure.
In an attempt to mend relations, Chinese state media has adopted a more conciliatory tone, emphasizing the merits of resetting and cooperating. With the specter of the upcoming Taiwan election, Chinese officials stress the need for the U.S. to avoid supporting Taiwanese independence, setting the stage for potentially contentious discussions.
Biden’s Challenge: Navigating Military, Trade, and Political Minefields
For President Biden, the summit presents a complex challenge of navigating military, trade, and political minefields. The Biden administration seeks to re-establish military communications with China, crucial for preventing misunderstandings that could escalate into dangerous flashpoints. The lingering fallout from the U.S. downing a Chinese spy balloon earlier in the year underscores the importance of open channels between the two nations’ military leadership.
Taiwan emerges as a central point of contention, with China breaking off military communications after perceived provocations, while the U.S. remains committed to supporting the self-governed island.
The summit offers an opportunity to address economic and trade issues, including the U.S. ban on certain semiconductor exports to China and concerns about Chinese-made fentanyl flooding the U.S. market. As Biden aims to leverage his extensive foreign affairs experience, the meeting becomes a critical test of his ability to defuse tensions and maintain global stability amidst a myriad of challenges.