SAN FRANCISCO/HONG KONG, Nov 16 (Reuters) – When Chinese President Xi Jinping met leaders for dinner on Wednesday evening in San Francisco, he was greeted with not one, but three standing ovations from the world of American business.
It was one of several public relations victories for the Chinese leader during his first trip in six years to the United States, where he and President Joe Biden. concluded agreements covering fentanyl, military communications and artificial intelligence on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.
All three of these outcomes were outcomes the United States expected from China rather than the other way around, two people briefed on the trip said.
But Xi appears to have achieved his own goals: securing U.S. policy concessions in exchange for promises of cooperation, an easing of bilateral tensions that will allow a greater focus on economic growth, and a chance to attract foreign investors who increasingly shun plus China.
China’s economy is slowing, and earlier this month it announced its first quarterly deficit in foreign direct investment. And the ruling Communist Party has battled political intrigue that has raised questions about Xi’s decision-making, including the sudden and unexplained moves of his Minister of Foreign Affairs and his Minister of Defense.
“If the United States and China manage to manage their differences … it will mean that Xi Jinping will not have to divert all his attention to these bilateral relations,” said Alexander Neill, deputy researcher at the Think Tank. from the Pacific to Hawaii. reservoir.
“He needs to focus on his domestic agenda, which is incredibly urgent.”
WAIVER OF SANCTIONS FOR COOPERATION
Securing Xi’s promise to cooperate with China to stem the flow of fentanyl to the United States was high on Biden’s to-do list for the summit. A senior US official said the deal under which China would go after specific companies that produce fentanyl precursors was made on a “trust but verify” basis.
In exchange, the American government announced Thursday deleted a Chinese public security forensic institute on the Commerce Ministry’s trade sanctions list, where it was placed in 2020 for alleged abuses against Uyghurs, a diplomatic goal long sought by China.
Critics have warned against removing sanctions on the institute, signaling to Beijing that US entity lists are negotiable, and questioned the Biden administration’s commitment to pressuring China on this which she says is the genocide of the Uyghurs by the Chinese government.
“This undermines the credibility of our entity list and our moral authority,” said a spokesperson for the Republican-led House Select Committee on China.
Furthermore, Biden’s Republican opponents say the United States is missing an opportunity by not leveraging China’s waning economic momentum for more diplomatic gains.
Biden also touted as a success a deal to resume military dialogues interrupted by China following the 2022 trip by then-Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan, which was claimed by China.
But even if Beijing would like a reduction in tensions, it is unlikely to change Chinese military behavior that the United States considers dangerous, such as interceptions of American ships and planes in international waters that have led to some number of near-accidents.
“China is concerned that the hotlines are being used as a potential pretext for a U.S. presence in areas it claims as its own,” said Craig Singleton, a China expert at the Defense Foundation. democracies in Washington.
Biden administration officials acknowledged that establishing a functional military relationship would not be as simple as semi-regular meetings between defense officials.
“This is long, hard, slow work and the Chinese need to see the value of that million dollars before they do it. It won’t do us any favors,” a senior Biden administration official told Reuters in October . in the run-up to the Xi-Biden meeting.
PARTNER AND FRIEND?
In his public remarks to Biden, Xi suggested that China sought peaceful coexistence with the United States, and he told business leaders that China was ready to be a “partner and friend” of the United States , remarks aimed in part at a business world alarmed by Chinese repression against the United States. various industries and the use of exit bans and detentions against certain managers.
Likewise, Xi’s televised garden walk with Biden and the largely respectful reception given to Xi by his American hosts were played up in China’s tightly controlled media to show the domestic audience that their president is managing relations most important economic and political issues in the country.
“Xi Jinping may have calculated that exaggerating the US threat would do more harm than good to China, his position within the party and the party itself,” said Drew Thompson, a former Pentagon official. who is now a researcher at the National University of Singapore. .
“The fact that we are debating whether China is likely to invest is a real problem for China.”
At the same time, Xi reiterated to Biden the points he made earlier this year to Russian President Vladimir Putin, urging the US president to view US-China relations through “an acceleration of global transformations not seen in a century “.
Analysts say this reflects the idea that China – and Russia – are reshaping the US-led international system.
However, this time, pragmatism may have taken precedence over ideology.
China recognizes that it is still necessary for its economic progress to maintain somewhat normal relations with the United States and Western countries, said Li Mingjiang, a professor at the Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.
“That’s the fundamental driving force behind the meeting.”
Reporting by Michael Martina and Greg Torode; Additional reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt in Washington, and Antoni Slodkowski and Laurie Chen in Beijing; Editing by Don Durfee and Tom Hogue
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