US President Joe Biden is expected to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping next month following a visit by China’s top diplomat to the White House.
The two leaders will probably meet at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in San Francisco in November, an event that brings together world and business leaders.
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While the White House would not confirm the Biden-Xi meeting, a readout of Friday’s meeting between China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi and US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said the two sides were “working together towards a meeting”.
Xi and Biden have not met since attending the G20 summit in Bali last year.
The Wang and Sullivan talks formed part of a three-day visit to Washington, DC, that saw the foreign minister meet Biden as well as top US officials, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing did not immediately confirm the trip but said there were discussions of the two countries’ often-acrimonious relationship.
Wang told Biden that China was committed to improving and stabilising its relationship with the US through the three principles of “mutual respect, peaceful coexistence, and win-win cooperation”, according to Chinese state media.
He made similar remarks when he met Blinken on Thursday, according to Xinhua.
Middle East role?
China has said it is neutral in the Ukraine war but has been accused of propping up Russia’s economy in the face of heavy Western sanctions.
In the Middle East, meanwhile, observers hope Beijing could play a more conciliatory role due to its strong ties with Israel and Arab states.
The US is arming both Israel and Ukraine, but it has also historically tried to broker peace deals between Palestine and Israel.
Both countries now find themselves in a position to possibly work together to help de-escalate the situation in Gaza, where Israel has threatened to launch a ground invasion.
The point was raised during Biden and Wang’s meeting, where the president “underscored that the United States and China must work together to address global challenges”, according to a White House statement.
The US has signalled interest in improving bilateral relations, saying in the past that both sides need “guardrails” to ensure disagreements do not escalate into a military skirmish.
Bilateral relations deteriorated during the administration of US President Donald Trump, who launched a trade war with China. They have remained strained since Biden took office in January 2021 over issues from Hong Kong and Taiwan to alleged spy balloons and semiconductor sanctions.
A meeting between Xi and Blinken in Beijing in June and another between Xi and US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer earlier this month may be a sign things are moving in the right direction.
The US has accused Beijing’s air force of engaging in dangerous and aggressive manoeuvres while flying over the South China Sea, as seen in a near collision between a US B-52 bomber and a Chinese J-11 jet earlier this week.
During his meeting with Wang Yi, Biden said China must deescalate similar behaviour towards the Philippines, a US treaty ally whose fishing fleet and coast guard vessels are regularly harassed by China in the disputed waters of the South China Sea.
As Washington and Beijing potentially work together in the Middle East, they remain at odds over Taiwan, a self-ruled democracy claimed by China’s Communist Party as part of its own territory.
The island of 23 million people will hold elections in early January, an event that typically draws an angry response from Beijing.
Beijing has historically tried to influence the results through a range of tactics from online misinformation campaigns to staging military exercises in the Taiwan Strait, an overt reminder that it has not ruled out trying to take the island by force.
Beijing also staged two rounds of exercises over the past 14 months following a visit by then-House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan in August 2022 and an unofficial trip by Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen to the US in April.
A military conflict between China and Taiwan could draw in the US, which has pledged to help the democracy defend itself, although it has stopped short of promising boots on the ground.