Index > Briefing
Tuesday, November 16, 2021
U.S.-China Relations See Signs of Easing

On the morning of 16 November, Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S President Joe Biden held a virtual meeting. The talks lasted for more than 3 hours and ended at about half past noon Beijing time.

Judging from the public media reports and the announcements issued by the officials of the two countries after the meeting, this was a meeting that brought encouraging news to the world. In his opening remarks, President Xi told President Biden that he was very happy to see his “old friend”. “At present, both China and the U.S are at critical stages of development, and the ‘global village’ of humanity faces multiple challenges. As the world’s two largest economies and permanent members of the UN Security Council, China and the U.S need to increase communication and cooperation, each run their domestic affairs well and, at the same time, shoulder their share of international responsibilities, and work together to advance the noble cause of world peace and development.”. “China and the U.S should respect each other, coexist in peace, and pursue win-win cooperation. I am willing to work with President Biden to build consensus and take active steps to move China-U.S. relations forward in a positive direction. Doing so will advance the interests of the two peoples and meet the expectation of the international community”.

According to Reuters, when Xi greeted him as an “old friend”, Biden smiled and said, “Maybe I should start more formally, although you and I have never been that formal with one another”. Biden stated that, “I am happy we had found time to meet, and I look forward to a candid and forthright discussion like all the discussions we’ve had thus far. It seems to me our responsibility as leaders of China and the U.S is to ensure that the competition between our countries does not veer into conflict, whether intended or unintended. We need to establish some commonsense guardrails, to be clear and honest where we disagree, and work together where our interests intersect, especially on vital global issues like climate change. How our bilateral relationship evolves, seems to me, will have a profound impact not only on our countries but, quite frankly, the rest of the world. We have a responsibility to the world, as well as to our people”.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China summarized the main content of this meeting as “1234”. The “1” here refers to the Taiwan issue. Xi emphasized that the One-China Principle and the three U.S.-China joint communiqués are the political basis of relations of the two countries, and successive U.S. administrations have made clear commitments to this. “2” signifies two principles; first of all the two heads of state both emphasize on the importance of U.S.-China relations; and secondly, both of them expressed their opposition to a “new cold war.” “3” here means the three principles of mutual respect, peaceful coexistence, and win-win cooperation. “4” here refers to four priorities, namely first of all, to demonstrate responsibility of major powers in leading the international community to address various challenges, including climate change and global public health, energy, and the industrial chain supply chain security. The second priority is to promote exchanges at all levels and in various fields in the spirit of equality and mutual benefit. The third is to manage differenced and sensitive issues in a constructive way to prevent U.S.-China relations from derailing and getting out of control. The fourth is to strengthen coordination and cooperation on major international and regional hotspot issues to provide more public products to the world.

An official announcement posted on the White House website stated that in Biden and Xi’s virtual meeting, the two leaders discussed the complex nature of relations between both countries and the importance of managing competition responsibly. As in previous discussions, the two leaders covered aligned areas, and where their interests, values, and perspectives diverge. Biden emphasized that the United States will continue to stand up for its interests and values and, together with its allies and partners, it will ensure the rules of the road for the 21st century advance an international system that is free, open and fair. He also stated that the priority he places on far-reaching investments at home.

On the Taiwan issue, Biden emphasized that the United States remains committed to the “one China” policy, guided by the Taiwan Relations Act, the three Joint communiqués, and the Six Assurances, and that the United States strongly opposes unilateral efforts to change the status quo or undermine peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. Biden raised concerns about the PRC’s practices in Xinjiang, Tibet, and Hong Kong, as well as human rights more broadly. He was clear about the need to protect American workers and industries from the PRC’s unfair trade and economic practices. He also discussed the importance of a free and open Indo-Pacific. In the meantime, he underscored the importance of managing strategic risks. He noted the need for common-sense guardrails to ensure that competition does not veer into conflict and to keep lines of communication open. The two leaders also exchanged views on key regional challenges, including North Korea, Afghanistan, and Iran. Finally, they discussed ways for the two sides to continue discussions in some areas, with Biden emphasizing the importance of substantive and concrete conversations.

Regarding the meeting between the two leaders, Reuters reported that although this meeting may be beneficial to the attitude of U.S.-China relations, there were no important breakthroughs. It appears they exchanged views about everything under the sun, but announced no decisions or policy steps. Scott Kennedy, a China expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies said, “both parties are trying to determine the goal of this meeting to create stability for the relationship between the two parties”. There are also views that the China-U.S. tariff issue that the market is concerned about was not mentioned in this meeting.

However, the researchers at ANBOUND disagree. For this meeting of heads of state between China and the United States, we must look at the development and changes in U.S.-China relations in recent years. Since 2018, U.S.-China relations have plunged into the lowest point since the establishment of diplomatic relations during the Trump administration, and excessive politicization has pushed the relations between the two countries into extreme geopolitical risks. In this context, the greatest significance of this meeting between President Xi and President Biden lies not so much in reaching specific cooperation or breakthroughs, but in the basic gestures shown by the leaders of the two major powers and the basic direction of relations. It can be considered that the meeting itself is a strategic retreat, which shows a positive attitude towards each other, and therefore has strong public relations significance. Although no substantive specific content has been reached, in the current international situation, this gesture of China and the United States is of great significance, and it is a relatively strong positive signal for China and the United States and for the whole world.

Final analysis conclusion:

We believe that this meeting is the beginning of the limited improvement of bilateral relations between the two countries, and it has also opened the way for the leaders of the two countries to make more contacts in the future and for further communication. In this regard, the meeting between the heads of state of China and the U.S. is of great significance, and it is a major diplomatic event that has attracted the attention of the world.