What to expect when Biden and Xi Jinping meet in California

Xi Jinping and Joe Biden stand in front of US and Chinese flags at the G20 summit
Presidents Xi Jinping and Joe Biden smiled for the cameras at the G20 summit in November 2022

US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping are to meet on Wednesday in the San Francisco Bay area.

The encounter on 15 November will be only their second face-to-face meeting during the Biden presidency.

It will be wide-ranging, US officials said, with the Israel-Hamas war, Taiwan, war in Ukraine and election interference to be discussed.

Relations between the two countries deteriorated earlier this year.

The US accused China of sending a spy balloon across its air space. An American warplane shot it down off the coast of South Carolina.

There was also a visit to Taiwan last year by then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi, which led China to break off communication between the two nations' militaries.

Mr Biden is "determined" to restore those channels, two senior administration officials said last week, but China appeared "reluctant" to do so.

"This is not the relationship of five or 10 years ago, we're not talking about a long list of outcomes or deliverables," one of the officials said.

"The goals here really are about managing the competition, preventing the downside of risk - of conflict, and ensuring channels of communication are open."

The BBC has also learned that Mr Xi will attend a private dinner with US business executives in San Francisco after his meeting with Mr Biden.

For $40,000 (£32,800), guests can sit at the Chinese president's table. Tickets start at $2,000 per person.

A spokesman for the National Committee on US-China Relations, one of the organisers of the dinner, had earlier told the BBC an "extremely senior" Chinese official would attend a planned event, though he would not confirm if it was Mr Xi.

The Biden-Xi bilateral will take place during the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (Apec) summit, which the US is hosting in San Francisco from 11 to 17 November.

Taiwan is likely to be at the top of the list of topics China will be keen to discuss. It claims sovereignty over the self-ruled island, which is set to hold elections early next year.

Mr Xi may ask for additional reassurances that the US does not support Taiwanese independence. Mr Biden, meanwhile, is expected to underscore American concerns about Beijing's military activities around Taiwan, according to a senior administration official.

There will also be discussions about US restrictions on technology exports to China and tensions over Beijing's territorial claims in the South China and East China Seas.

Aside from these core disagreements over trade and competition, Mr Biden's most urgent request will be for China to restrain Iran by using what influence Beijing has to warn it against escalating violence in the Middle East in response to the Israel-Hamas war.

Analysts predict the summit may result in some modest achievements - perhaps on restoring military communications and restricting the flow of Chinese-made Fentanyl.

But neither side is expecting any breakthroughs that would reset the relationship - this will be about managing and stabilising it.

The Chinese blame the deterioration in relations on Washington. Mr Xi made that clear in March when he accused the US of "encircling, containing and suppressing China", said Jude Blanchett of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank.

And while China's US ambassador Xie Feng recently extolled positive steps towards improving ties, he stressed the importance of assurances.

Beijing wants to know "that the US does not seek to change China's system, does not seek a new Cold War, does not support Taiwan independence and has no intention to seek decoupling from China", he said at the Hong Kong Forum on US-China relations.

The Biden administration says it's trying to counter aggressive Chinese behaviour that flouts international norms.

But it has worked hard to ease tensions after the balloon crisis - sending three cabinet members to Beijing since June, including the Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Mr Blinken had abruptly cancelled a planned visit to Beijing in February, saying China's decision to fly the apparent spy balloon over the US was "unacceptable and irresponsible".

But when the trip eventually went ahead in June he had what he described as "a robust conversation" with Mr Xi. The summit is the result of this hands-on diplomacy.

US officials say their diplomats have been raising the importance of re-establishing military dialogue in "nearly every conversation" with their Chinese counterparts over the past year, but with no success.

The spy balloon incident, "comes up often" when discussing the communications freeze, one official said.

"I think the balloon episode underscored the difficulty we had at the time to be able to establish high-level, consequential communications with Beijing," the official added.

"And we've made that case persistently and consistently."

US Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen also held talks with Chinese Vice-Premier He Lifeng last week, ahead of the Xi-Biden meeting, to discuss economic co-operation between the two countries.

Ahead of the visit, Chinese state media outlet Global Times wrote an editorial that put the responsibility on Mr Biden to "overcome and eliminate disruptions" between China and the US.

"There is a dark force in Washington that is undermining US-China relations, and the more critical the moment, the more active they become," the 8 November editorial said.

With reporting from Robert Plummer in London and Brandon Drenon in Washington.

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