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Joe Biden’s suggestion of summit with Xi Jinping falls on deaf ears

US-China relations updates

Joe Biden instructed he maintain a face-to-face summit with Chinese president Xi Jinping throughout a 90-minute name final week however didn’t safe an settlement from his counterpart, main some US officers to conclude that Beijing is constant to play hardball with Washington.

The US president proposed to Xi that the leaders maintain the summit in an effort to interrupt an deadlock in US-China relations, however a number of folks briefed on the decision stated the Chinese chief didn’t take him up on the provide and as an alternative insisted Washington undertake a much less strident tone in direction of Beijing.

The White House had portrayed the decision — which occurred at Biden’s request seven months after their first phone dialog — as an opportunity to check if Xi was keen to have interaction severely after a number of diplomatic conferences between US and Chinese officers garnered little progress.

Five folks briefed on the decision stated that whereas Xi had used much less abrasive language than his prime diplomats had accomplished this 12 months, his total message to Biden was that the US should tone down its rhetoric.

Biden has taken a harsh line on China, criticising its remedy of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang, its crackdown on the pro-democracy motion in Hong Kong and its navy exercise round Taiwan. Beijing has responded by accusing the Biden administration of interfering in China’s core strategic pursuits.

A sixth individual acquainted with the scenario stated Biden had floated the summit as one of a number of potentialities for follow-on engagement with Xi, and that the US president had not anticipated a direct response.

One US official briefed on the dialog stated that whereas Xi didn’t interact with the thought of a summit, the White House believed this was partly resulting from considerations about Covid-19. Xi has not left China since he went to Myanmar in early 2020 earlier than the outbreak of the pandemic.

The US had thought of the G20 gathering in Italy in October for a potential summit, however Chinese media have instructed that Xi could not attend. He may also not attend the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation assembly this week in Tajikistan, the place China, Russia, India, Pakistan and central Asian nations will talk about Afghanistan.

Another individual acquainted with the Biden-Xi name stated it was conceivable that the Chinese president simply didn’t wish to commit at this explicit cut-off date. A unique individual stated it was potential that the 2 sides may conform to a video name — a step up from a cellphone name — across the time of the G20. But three folks stated the US was upset with Xi’s obvious lack of curiosity in a summit.

The White House declined to remark earlier than publication of this text however Jake Sullivan, US nationwide safety adviser, later stated the account of the Biden-Xi name was not correct.

“This is not an accurate portrayal of the call. Period,” Sullivan stated in a press release. “As we’ve said, the presidents discussed the importance of being able to have private discussions between the two leaders, and we’re going to respect that.”

Chinese accounts of the decision emphasised that it had been initiated by Biden, and quoted Xi as saying that US insurance policies had brought about “serious difficulties”. They additionally famous that the US “looks forward to more discussions and co-operation” with China, in language that implied Washington was pushing more durable for engagement than Beijing.

A day after the decision, the Financial Times reported Biden was contemplating permitting Taiwan to alter the identify of its workplace within the US, from Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office to “Taiwan Representative Office. The report prompted an angry response from China, which fears that such a name change would bolster Taiwan’s claim to be a sovereign country.

Bonnie Glaser, a China expert at the German Marshall Fund, said it was difficult to interpret Xi’s reluctance to hold an in-person summit.

“It may be politically risky for Xi to engage with President Biden without certainty that he can get something from Biden. He may calculate that it is safer to only have interactions in this period at lower levels,” Glaser stated. “But there is also the Covid factor, and we don’t know how much weight to attach to that.”

Follow Demetri Sevastopulo on Twitter

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