Biden - Xi: "There's no substitute for face-to-face discussion"



Attempts to downplay its result or to declare it a failure are paltry. Objectively, we can say that this is diplomacy of the highest caliber and a success not only for the two countries, but also for stability in the world. Judge for yourself. The U.S.-China summit talks were made possible as a result of painstaking multi-stage work at various official and unofficial levels, as a result of mutual visits and concessions. In general, this time Biden was correct and, as White House officials describe it, «pulled no punches». The protocol of the meeting was discussed down to the last detail, including the selection of colors with which the meeting rooms were decorated. Preceding the meeting, the American president said: «There is no substitute for face-to-face discussion. I have always found our discussions direct and frank».

One could, of course, focus on President Biden’s remarks, repeating once again his characterization of Xi Jinping as a «dictator». But that would obscure the real outcome. In addition, the assessment of his Chinese vis-a-vis sounded after the talks during the press conference. In general, he described the meeting as «one of the most constructive and productive». China’s Foreign Ministry and its head Wang Yi also spoke about the talks. As a common denominator we can cite the official statement of the White House: «The two leaders held a frank and constructive discussion on a number of bilateral and global issues, including areas of potential cooperation, and exchanged views on issues where there are differences».

And the results are not insignificant. First of all, the intention of the two countries to move away from confrontation and to keep relations within the framework of civilized competition was confirmed at the highest level. According to Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning, the talks between Xi Jinping and Biden demonstrated that «China and the United States have extensive common interests» and once again confirmed that «mutual benefit is the most important characteristic of Sino-American relations». Specifically, she said, this is embodied in a series of agreements: «the two sides reached consensus on more than 20 points in the areas of politics and diplomacy, people-to-people and cultural exchanges, global governance and military security».

In particular, as Xinhua News Agency reported, «the two heads of state agreed to develop and strengthen dialogue and cooperation between China and the United States in various fields, including: establishing an intergovernmental dialogue on artificial intelligence; establishing a Sino-U.S. working group on anti-drug cooperation, restoring high-level military-to-military ties, and resuming Sino-U.S. defense cooperation. The two leaders emphasized the importance of jointly accelerating China-US efforts to respond to the climate crisis».

And this is not Chinese propaganda or wishful thinking. The U.S. White House officially confirmed this entire set of agreements, stating that, in general, “the leaders of the two countries have made progress on a number of key issues.

It is curious that the American side is particularly enthusiastic about China’s agreement to strengthen the fight against clandestine supplies of the drug fentanyl, its derivatives and equipment for its manufacture to the United States. In the pre-election context, this topic seems to be particularly advantageous for Biden’s team. This is not to say that China is somehow facilitating the distribution of fentanyl, no. It’s being smuggled into the United States. And now Biden has received assurances from Xi Jinping that the Chinese state will step up its fight against illegal shipments. The question, of course, is also why U.S. customs and law enforcement are unable to do something about this problem, which is already quite acute. According to American data, thousands of people fall victim to overdoses of this synthetic opioid, which is 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. Fentanyl poisoning has already overtaken traffic accidents in the number of fatalities, and in 2022 Americans lost their lives every seven minutes because of it. The U.S. authorities have had to allocate 50 billion dollars to help those affected by opiates and to fight their spread. But the surprising thing is that fentanyl itself is not banned in the US, it is prescribed by doctors to patients. Most overdoses are the result of using an underground, homemade substance.

And actually, this topic looks very symbolic from a historical point of view. In China, on this occasion, they recall how the «century of humiliation» began. The so-called civilized Western countries obtained the right to supply opium to China by force of arms. This was done by the «enlightened Western elite» who thought in colonial terms. Great fortunes were made on this disgusting colonial policy, including in the USA. If we go through the family trees of notable American families, we can easily find traces of opium. Drug lords were even among the closest relatives of President Theodore Roosevelt, who could not have been educated and risen to the pinnacle of American power without the proceeds from opium sales to China. Although Xi Jinping will never say so directly to his counterpart, the Chinese people remember the «century of humiliation» that turned one of the world’s leading powers into a devastated country. But this is about a category as subtle as historical memory. A slight hint is contained in the words of Xi Jinping during the talks, who said that China will not follow the old path of colonial plunder and hegemony, will not export ideology and will not enter into ideological confrontation with any country.

Now both sides are trying their best to normalize relations after Trump’s trade war, a period of mass visits to Taiwan by American politicians and Chinese balloons flying over America.

However, differences remain. The main one is still Taiwan.

«The American side should stop arming Taiwan and support China’s peaceful reunification», Xi told Biden. — «China will achieve reunification, and it cannot be stopped».

Next up are U.S. sanctions on the PRC and so-called «non-market practices» on China’s part. These include the notorious U.S. human rights claims against the PRC, and other points on which Biden and Xi have expressed their concerns at the talks, but have not reached consensus. Ukraine can also be added to this. These topics remain on the agenda and will be discussed in terms of «managed competition». The key word here is ‘discuss’. It is the main outcome. Dialogue will continue at the diplomatic level. And as we know, when diplomats speak, guns are silent. By thinking more broadly, the continuation of a civilized conversation will ease tensions not only in U.S.-China relations alone, but also in the global context. Its development will depend on a multitude of serious factors, not on one accidentally thrown word. And that is good for the world.