Biden, Xi’s ‘direct’ talks result in deals on military, fentanyl

By | November 16, 2023

WOODSIDE, Calif., Nov 15 (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping agreed on Wednesday to open a presidential hotline, resume military-to-military communications and work to reduce fentanyl production , thus demonstrating tangible progress in their first face-to-face meeting. face-to-face talks in a year.

Biden and Xi met for about four hours in suburban San Francisco to discuss issues that have strained U.S.-China relations. Latent differences remain, particularly over Taiwan.

In a significant move, the two governments plan to resume military contacts that China severed following then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan in August 2022.

“We are back to direct, open, clear, direct communication,” Biden said.

Additionally, Biden said he and Xi agreed on high-level communications. “He and I agreed that each of us could respond directly to the phone call and we would be heard immediately.”

But in a comment likely to anger the Chinese, Biden later told reporters he had not changed his view that Xi was a dictator.

“Well, look, he is. I mean, he’s a dictator in the sense that he’s a guy who runs a country that’s a communist country,” Biden said.

Xi told Biden that the Communist Party USA’s negative views were unfair, a US official told reporters after the meeting.

Biden and Xi began the talks seeking to smooth over a difficult period in their relationship that deteriorated after a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon transited through the United States and was shot by an American fighter plane in February.

The White House said Biden raised areas of concern to Washington, including the detention of US citizens, human rights in Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong and Beijing’s aggressive activities in the South China Sea.

“Just talk, be frank with each other so there’s no misunderstanding,” Biden said.


The U.S. and Chinese militaries have experienced a number of near misses and acrimonious exchanges over the past year. After the pledge to renew communications, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will meet with his Chinese counterpart when that person is appointed, a senior U.S. official said.

Biden and Xi agreed that China would stem the export of items linked to the production of the opioid fentanyl, a leading cause of drug overdoses in the USA. “This is going to save lives,” Biden said, adding that he appreciated Xi’s “engagement” on the issue.

Under the deal, China will directly go after certain chemical companies that make fentanyl precursors, a senior U.S. official told reporters. He pledged to “trust but verify” Chinese actions regarding the drug.

The two leaders also agreed to bring together experts to discuss the risks of artificial intelligence.

A U.S. official described an exchange regarding Taiwan, the democratic island that China claims as its territory. China’s preference is for peaceful reunification with the Chinese-claimed island of Taiwan, Xi told Biden, the U.S. official said, but Xi then spoke about conditions under which force could be used.

Biden said he emphasized the need for peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. The U.S. official said Biden was advocating for maintaining the status quo and for China to respect Taiwan’s electoral process.

“President Xi responded, ‘Look, peace is all well and good, but at some point we have to move toward a more general resolution,'” Xi was quoted as saying by the official.

Xi also urged the United States to stop sending weapons to Taiwan and support China’s peaceful “reunification” with Taiwan, Chinese state media said.

Bonnie Glaser, a Taiwan expert at the U.S. German Marshall Fund, said Xi appeared to have conveyed both threats and reassurances about Taiwan.

“The suggestion that a resolution must be reached in the short term is a worrying sign, although he stressed that there are no plans for military action against Taiwan in the coming years,” he said. she declared.

Biden said he asked Xi to use his influence with Iran to urge Tehran not to launch proxy attacks against U.S. targets in the Middle East as the Israel-Hamas conflict continues in Gaza.


Biden hosted the Chinese leader at the Filoli estate, a country house and manicured gardens about 30 miles (48 km) south of San Francisco, where they will later move for a stay. Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit (APEC).

APEC meets amid relations Chinese economic weaknessBeijing’s territorial disputes with its neighbors and a conflict in the Middle East that divides the United States from its allies.

Xi arrived at the meeting hoping to gain respect from the United States as China’s economy struggles to recover from sluggish growth.

Biden, who had long sought this meeting, struck a warm and welcoming tone. The video of the two hands clasped in farewell after the meeting was published on X by the Global Times, China’s state-backed tabloid.

“Planet Earth is big enough for both countries to succeed,” Xi told Biden as they and their delegations sat across from each other at a long table in an ornate conference room.

Biden said the United States and China must ensure that competition between them “does not escalate into conflict” and manage their relationship “responsibly”.

After lunch, the leaders took a short walk together in the manor’s manicured garden after an interaction that lasted about four hours. Biden greeted reporters and gave a thumbs up when asked how the talks were going. “Well,” he said.

Xi told Biden as they began their discussions that a lot had happened since their last meeting. a year ago in Baliciting the impacts of the COVID pandemic and calling the U.S.-China relationship “the most important bilateral relationship in the world.”

“For two big countries like China and the United States, turning their backs on each other is not an option,” he said. “It’s not realistic for one side to remodel the other.”

After their meeting, Biden welcomed world leaders to the APEC meeting in San Francisco, where he said Xi viewed the visit as a homecoming given the city’s large Chinese population.

Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; Additional reporting by Steve Holland, Michael Martina, Martin Pollard, Jeff Mason, David Lawder, David Brunnstrom and Andrea Shalal; Editing by Josie Kao and Stephen Coates

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Jeff Mason is a White House correspondent for Reuters. He covered the presidencies of Barack Obama, Donald Trump and Joe Biden as well as the presidential campaigns of Biden, Trump, Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain. He served as president of the White House Correspondents’ Association in 2016-2017, leading the press in defending press freedom during the early days of the Trump administration. His work and that of the WHCA have been recognized with the Freedom of Speech Award from Deutsche Welle. Jeff asked pointed questions of domestic and foreign leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un. He is a recipient of the WHCA’s “Excellence in Presidential News Coverage Under Deadline Pressure” award and a co-winner of the Association for Business Journalists’ “Breaking News” award. Jeff began his career in Frankfurt, Germany, as a business journalist before being posted to Brussels, Belgium, where he covered the European Union. Jeff appears regularly on television and radio and teaches political journalism at Georgetown University. He is a graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and a former Fulbright scholar.

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