President Biden and Xi Jinping’s summit suggests climate diplomacy can ease the divide between the United States and China

The summit between US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping this week may indicate that relations between the world’s two largest economies may decline – despite the fundamental differences.

The meeting late Monday came less than a week after Beijing and Washington announced a surprise cooperation on climate change at the COP26 climate summit, saying they would work together on efforts to reduce methane emissions and other climate-related initiatives — which the Biden administration held as a small step. Forward and a sign of potential cooperation in the future.

Although relations between the two countries have escalated in recent years on issues ranging from trade to Taiwan to technology, the climate agreement and Xi Biden summit may signal that a new era of Sino-US relations is underway, although experts warn of tensions between the two countries. . States are unlikely to be dissolved easily.
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“I think we used to like to think that this is a Donald Trump problem, but it’s very clear that it’s not specific to the Trump administration and it’s a structural problem,” he says. Professor Steve Tsang, Director of the Chinese SOAS Institute at University College London.

‘playing with fire’

The tone of the meeting, which took place via video link, was reportedly cordial. Xi greeted the US president as his “old friend.” Biden and Xi have spent time together over the past decade, including dining at a Beijing noodle shop in 2011 when both Xi and Biden were vice presidents.

Despite their history, the leaders’ conversation covered a wide range of contentious issues. Biden has raised concerns about human rights abuses in Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong, and about China’s “unfair trade and economic policies,” the White House statement said.

He also touched on the issue of Taiwan. The United States has concerns about indications of China’s increasingly aggressive military posture toward Taiwan — including the incursion into Taiwanese airspace by the People’s Liberation Air Force.

Meanwhile, Xi warned against slipping into a “new cold war” and said US support for Taiwan, which Beijing considers part of China, was “playing with fire”. “Anyone who plays with fire will be burned,” Beijing said in a statement.

Read more: This is how Joe Biden might start repairing America’s relationship with China

“The meeting itself was about the two leaders discussing ways to manage competition between the United States and China in a responsible manner and ways to erect protective barriers,” a senior administration official told reporters at a briefing after the summit. We were not expecting a breakthrough. There is nothing to report.”

Lintao Zhang — Getty Images Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) shakes hands with US Vice President Joe Biden (L) inside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China on December 4, 2013.

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Will changing the tone improve relationships?

Experts say that while there are no clear results, the summit may help reset relationships. Xi has not left China since the beginning of the epidemic, and US officials say the virtual summit, which lasted three and a half hours, gave leaders a chance to participate in a way they could not. Two phone calls I have already made this year.

“instead of levelThe main meals were tone, ring, ” says Andrew Mertha, director of the China Global Research Center at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). The summit, he notes, indicates “a new, healthier relationship that is as close as countries have come to being on an equal footing, at least visually.”

Read more: How US forces in Taiwan are adding more fuel to the Tinderbox between China and the US

However, the list of things the superpowers differ on is long – and future clashes remain possible. But recent cooperation between nations on climate issues may lead to a better way of working together.

“They are trying to find a way that they can work with each other in a more constructive way,” says SOAS’s Tsang. “They haven’t really found a way yet, but they’re trying.”

– With Brian Bennett reporting in Washington.

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