Presidents Biden and Xi will have a meeting on the sidelines of the Asia‐Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in San Francisco next week. This marks the first time the two leaders are meeting face‐to‐face since the G20 summit in Bali last year.
The two leaders will have a lot on their agenda as they try to stabilize a relationship damaged by meetings between US Speakers of the House and Taiwan’s president, Chinese military maneuvers, US export controls on cutting edge technology, and the Chinese spy balloon incident.
Given the scope of the challenges, it would be wishful thinking to expect this summit to produce any satisfying, durable solutions. This meeting should be viewed, instead, as a small but positive step toward resuming regular and high‐level diplomatic contact between two great powers that reduces reasons to fight one another.
Taiwan will be the most important subject of conversation. China pulled out of several official dialogues in retaliation for then‐Speaker Pelosi’s August 2022 visit to Taipei. Both the US and China have been needling at one another’s red lines in the Taiwan Strait, and both see themselves as the defensive, status quo player. Hopefully the summit will produce, at a bare minimum, a political understanding that allows both sides to turn down the temperature and reduce the needling. Neither side seems eager for a conflict, but the current cycle of actions and counter actions isn’t helping the situation.