China’s Xi ‘not interested in substantive cooperation’ with West after meeting

The bilateral meeting between China’s Xi Jinping and US President Joe Biden highlighted that the leader of the Asian power is “not interested” in working with the West on any major issues, according to a commentator.

During the landmark meeting held on Wednesday, Mr Xi appeared to be presenting a more amicable China ready to improve ties with the US and curb the ongoing tensions, focused particularly on trade and Taiwan.

During the event, the White House said in its readout of the meeting the two held a “candid and constructive discussion” on a range of issues.

But journalist Jordan Schneider, author of the ChinaTalk newsletter, believes this same readout actually showcased how little Mr Xi wants to achieve “meaningful breakthroughs” on major issues.

He wrote in his analysis of the meeting: “The readout from the Xi-Biden summit helps to explain why I don’t spend much time anymore on ChinaTalk looking directly at the day-to-day diplomacy of the bilateral relationship.

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“Absent a dramatic change in leadership in Beijing, the strategic competition frame of the relationship will be here for at least a decade to come.

“In that context, Xi has made it perfectly clear that he is not interested in substantive cooperation on big issues, and turning on and off working groups won’t lead to meaningful breakthroughs.”

Among the main takeaways from the meeting, the two countries agreed to resume military-to-military communication, something the US was hoping for.

While Washington and the Soviet Union maintained this type of communication even at the height of the Cold War to avoid any accident or misreading of intent, this link was cut by China last year after the then-US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan.

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Allegations regarding a suspected Chinese spy balloon floating across the US further deteriorate the situation.

While this development was noteworthy, Mr Schneider claimed in his newsletter that military dialogues had been attempted even during the first Barack Obama administration. And despite the relations between Beijing and Washington being in a better place at the time, they were still a “waste of time”, he claimed.

On another pressing matter, Taiwan, Mr Xi asked the US to stop arming the territory and support instead its reunification with China.

While the Chinese leader asked Washington not to cross “red lines”, Mr Biden said the US opposes any unilateral changes to the status quo from either side and called for restraint.

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Mr Xi could also not agree on the importance for the US on technology de-risking, arguing that “suppressing China’s science and technology is to curb China’s high-quality development”.

Nevertheless, the meeting did see Mr Xi and Mr Biden making progress on other issues – including pledges to tackle fentanyl trafficking and cooperate on slowing down methane emissions amid the climate crisis.

While the meeting appeared amiable, Mr Biden’s decision to reiterate his view Mr Xi is a “dictator” during a press conference following the discussions may have muddied the water, with Beijing issuing in response a strongly-worded statement saying: “The remarks seriously contradict basic facts, seriously violate diplomatic etiquette, and seriously infringe on China’s political dignity.”

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