USA TODAY US Edition
Biden, Xi meet in San Francisco
Leaders agree to tackle fentanyl, resume military talks
WOODSIDE, Calif. – President Joe Biden’s multihour summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday led to progress on fighting fentanyl and a resumption of communication between each other.
Xi agreed to take steps to curtail the supply of chemicals being used to make fentanyl, Biden said at a news conference Wednesday. China also agreed to create mechanisms to improve communication between military leaders, he said.
“We’re talking to our competitors, just talking and being blunt with one another so there’s no misunderstanding, as a key element to maintaining global stability and delivering for the American people,” Biden told reporters.
Chinese state media described the agreements as establishing a working group on counternarcotics cooperation and resuming high-level military-to-military communication.
Biden said that “in the months ahead” the high-level diplomacy would continue, “including between President Xi and me” and the leaders “agreed that each one of us can pick up the phone, call directly and we’ll be heard immediately.”
Biden later reaffirmed his view, in response to a question from a reporter, that he views Xi as a dictator, adding, “Well, look, he is.”
On Taiwan, the topic that’s the most volatile issue in U.S.China relations, Xi stressed the need for an eventual resolution, according to the White House.
China views Taiwan as part of its territory, while Taiwan sees itself as an independent, sovereign nation. Biden has provided Taiwan with military support, but the U.S. has stressed it does not support Taiwan independence.
Xi told Biden there are no plans for military action, but at some point, the situation needs to be resolved, the senior administration official told reporters.
Biden said he also brought up Russia’s war against Ukraine and the conflict in the Gaza Strip in the blunt conversation that lasted more than four hours. And he said he gave Xi the names of American citizens who are being wrongfully detained or subject to exit bans in China.
“Hopefully we can get them released,” Biden said. “No agreement on that.”
Biden addressed the media in an ornate room of a Bay Area mansion after his meeting with Xi, which included a casual stroll around the grounds of the private estate. As they walked along a brick path, Biden gave a thumbs up to the reporters watching from a distance.
Xi left without engaging with the press.
‘We’re back to direct open, clear, direct communications’
Agreements on fentanyl and military-to-military contacts had been expected out of the summit, which took place alongside the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.
Xi recently removed his defense minister. When a replacement is announced, that person will meet with Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin, a U.S. official who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity said.
“That’s been cut off and it’s been worrisome,” Biden said of the military contacts. “That’s how accidents happen. Misunderstandings. So we’re back to direct open, clear, direct communications on a direct basis. Vital miscalculations on either side can cause real trouble with a country like China, or any other major country.”
In brief remarks before the cameras earlier in the day, Biden reestablished his view that direct communication between the leaders could prevent a military conflict. But from the outset of the meeting, they disagreed over Biden’s oft-repeated use of the word “competition” to describe the relationship.
In a reproach of Biden’s description of the relationship, Xi said it remains his view that “major-country competition is not the prevailing trend of current times and cannot solve the problems facing China and the United States or the world at large.
“Planet Earth is big enough for the two countries to succeed, and one country’s success is an opportunity for the other,” Xi said.
The leaders met at Filoli Historic House & Garden, a private estate located just outside San Francisco. The mansion is part of a 654-acre property that boasts 16 acres of English Renaissance gardens, 250 fruit trees, and a pool pavilion.
Biden and Xi last met on the sidelines of the Group of 20 Summit a year ago this week. The leaders were expected to discuss Taiwan and fentanyl among other issues in San Francisco.
Ahead of the meeting, they shared a handshake. Biden put both his hands on Xi’s and ushered him down a red carpet and toward the mansion. They shook hands a second time at the entryway before Biden, who gently put his hand on Xi’s back in a sign of familiarity, followed the Chinese leader inside.
Sitting with their delegations at a long conference table, Biden said that he has “never doubted” what Xi tells him in their conversations. “We haven’t always agreed, which was not a surprise to anyone, but our meetings have always been candid, straightforward, and useful,” Biden said.
Relationship spans more than a decade
The leaders have known each other for more than a decade. They spent time together in China in 2011, when they were vice presidents of their respective nations, and in Washington the following year.
“I value our conversation because I think it’s paramount that you and I understand each other clearly, leader to leader, with no misconceptions or miscommunication,” Biden said, mentioning that the U.S. does not want the economic competition between the nations to “veer into conflict.”
Xi recalled their last meeting, on the tropical Indonesia island of Bali a year ago, and told Biden in a veiled reference to skirmishes in the Middle East and a spy balloon incident, “A lot has happened since then.”
The Chinese president said the relationship between Washington and Beijing is the “most important bilateral relationship in the world” and should develop in a way that benefits both nations.
“China-U.S. relationship has never been smooth sailing over the past 50 years and more, and it always faces problems of one kind or another,” Xi said through an interpreter. “Yet, it has kept moving forward amid twists and turns.”
Xi was expected to bring up the Biden administration’s efforts to restrict the Chinese government’s access to advanced computer chips that the U.S. worries it will put to use developing artificial intelligence and sophisticated weapons. In front of cameras before their meeting, he said that “protectionism is rising” and called it a “grave” problem.
“For two large countries like China and the United States, turning their back on each other is not an option. It is unrealistic for one side to remodel the other, and conflict and confrontation has unbearable consequences for both sides,” Xi said.