Biden says meeting China’s Xi in November a “possibility”

U.S. President Joe Biden on Friday referred to the “possibility” of meeting face-to-face with Chinese President Xi Jinping next month in San Francisco, despite no signs of progress on narrowing differences over major diplomatic and economic issues.

“There is no such meeting set up, but it is a possibility,” Biden told reporters at the White House, when asked about the prospects of a bilateral meeting with the Chinese leader on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.

Biden’s brief statement, without further elaboration, came after he made remarks on the U.S. economy. He will chair this year’s gathering of the multilateral economic forum, slated for mid-November in the major West Coast city.

Biden, who is running for re-election in 2024, has repeatedly expressed his desire to meet with Xi again in person later this year as well as his intention to properly manage the intensifying rivalry between the world’s two largest economies.

Amid the election campaign next year, Biden will likely have less time to engage in diplomacy and it may also be difficult for China to arrange a summit with the United States as the race heats up and especially if the outcome is unpredictable.

“We seek to responsibly manage the competition between our countries so it does not tip into conflict,” Biden said in his speech to this year’s U.N. General Assembly in New York last month, reiterating his administration’s pursuit of “de-risking” relations rather than “decoupling” from China.

But at the same time, Biden underscored that the United States will “push back on aggression and intimidation” and defend the existing international order that has provided security and prosperity for decades worldwide.

Despite tensions over numerous issues, ranging from Taiwan and human rights to trade of semiconductors and other high-tech products, the United States and China have resumed direct contacts between senior officials in recent months.

Most recently, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Sun Weidong visited Washington in late September and the U.S. State Department said he had a “candid, in-depth and constructive consultation” with Daniel Kritenbrink, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs.

Last month, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken also agreed with Chinese Vice President Han Zheng to maintain open lines of communication and to hold “senior engagements in the coming weeks,” when they met in New York during the U.N. assembly.

The meetings came after Biden’s top national security aide Jake Sullivan and Wang Yi, a Chinese Communist Party Politburo member in charge of foreign affairs, spent 12 hours together over two days in the Mediterranean island nation of Malta to discuss key areas of confrontation between the two countries.

Wang, who doubles as foreign minister, is widely expected to visit Washington prior to the APEC summit to prepare for a potential meeting between the presidents, while officials of various government agencies from both sides are likely to increase interactions in the weeks ahead.

Ch Fahad Khan Janda