This year’s Biden-Xi summit has better foundation but South China Sea and Taiwan risks won’t go away
BEIJING (AP) — The course of events in the year since the last meeting between Presidents Joe Biden and Xi Jinping offers cautious hope that they will have better luck this time around. But it also shows how easily any agreement they reach could once again veer off course.
The U.S. and Chinese leaders meet Wednesday while attending the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in San Francisco.
They go into the meeting on the back of five months of government-to-government talks that have accelerated in recent weeks and expanded to cultural and business exchanges. In contrast, the November 2022 meeting in Bali, Indonesia, took place after China had suspended talks to express anger over a visit by then-U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan.
“This rests on a stronger foundation than the Bali meeting did,” said Jude Blanchette, a China expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “Substantively and contextually this meeting is taking place in a moderately better environment.”
But tensions over Taiwan and flare-ups between China and the Philippines in the South China Sea are a sobering reminder that an unexpected incident could set back efforts to improve ties, just as an apparently errant Chinese balloon did early this year.
Talk also only goes so far with the two governments fundamentally at odds over technology, defense, trade and Taiwan. Last month, the Biden administration expanded restrictions on technology exports to China.
Recent experience has shown that more frequent communication “does not exclude the continued expansion and escalation of America’s preparations for war and high-tech deterrence against China, nor does it exclude China’s corresponding countermeasures, protests and preparations,” said Shi Yinhong, an international relations professor at Renmin University of China,
Rather than achieving major breakthroughs, the hope is that the leaders will set the tone for meaningful dialogue on a range of issues in the coming months, Blanchette said. “The more probable reality is it’s going to be a little bit of that but we have a lot of speed bumps that can trip up the two at any point.”
ONE YEAR IN US-CHINA RELATIONS
Nov. 14: Biden meets Xi for three hours during the Group of 20 meeting in Bali, Indonesia, in his first in-person meeting with the Chinese leader since becoming president.
Dec. 6: The Biden administration approves the sale of more than $425 million of spare aircraft parts for Taiwan’s F-16 fighters, C-130 transport planes and other U.S.-supplied weapons systems.
Jan. 18: U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen meets Vice Premier Liu He in Zurich. It is the highest-ranking contact between the two countries since the Biden-Xi meeting in Bali.
Feb. 2: U.S.-China ties are upended by reports that a Chinese surveillance balloon is flying over the United States. Secretary of State Antony Blinken calls off a planned trip to China.
Feb. 18: Blinken tells Wang Yi, China’s top foreign policy official, at a meeting in Munich that China must never send a surveillance balloon over the U.S. again. Wang criticizes the U.S. for shooting it down.
Feb. 21: A U.S. congressional delegation affirms America’s commitment to democracy and freedom in a meeting in Taiwan with President Tsai Ing-wen.
March 1: The U.S. approves the sale of $619 million of missiles, launchers and other munitions for Taiwan’s F-16 fighter jets.
May 10-11: Jake Sullivan, the U.S. national security adviser, tells Wang at talks in Vienna that the U.S. wants to move beyond the balloon incident.
May 26: A Chinese fighter jet flies in front of a U.S. reconnaissance plane over the South China Sea in what the U.S. military calls an “unnecessarily aggressive maneuver.”
June 2-4: China’s Defense Minister Li Shangfu turns down a meeting with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at the Shangri-La defense dialogue in Singapore. On June 3, a Chinese navy ship cuts across the path of an American destroyer in the Taiwan Strait.
June 18-19: Blinken meets Xi and Wang in Beijing in what will become the first of four U.S. Cabinet-level officials to visit over two months.
July 8: Yellen travels to Beijing to meet officials including Vice Premier He Lifeng, who has taken over the economic portfolio from now former Vice Premier Liu He.
July 19: Chinese Vice President Han Zheng tells visiting U.S. climate envoy John Kerry that China is willing to work with the U.S. on reducing global warming as long as its political demands are met.
Aug. 23: The Biden administration approves the sale to Taiwan of $500 million in infrared search tracking systems and related equipment for F-16 fighters.
Aug. 28-29: Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, meeting senior officials in Beijing, rebuffs their appeals to reduce U.S. controls on technology exports to China.
Sept. 9: Biden has a brief exchange with Chinese Premier Li Qiang while both are at the Group of 20 summit in India.
Sept. 11: A Chinese naval formation led by the aircraft carrier Shandong sails about 70 miles (110 kilometers) southeast of Taiwan to conduct drills simulating air, submarine, sea and land attacks.
Sept. 16-17: Sullivan and Wang hold 12 hours of talks in Malta.
Sept: 17: China’s military sends 103 aircraft toward Taiwan in a 24-hour period, an unusually high number. Chinese warplanes fly toward the island and back on almost a daily basis.
Sept. 18: Chinese Vice President Han Zheng hold talks with Blinken during the U.N. General Assembly in New York.
Sept. 22: The U.S. Treasury Department and China’s Ministry of Finance launch working groups to discuss economic and financial issues.
Oct. 9: Xi meets U.S. Senate delegation led by Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. It’s the first congressional delegation to visit China in four years.
Oct. 17: The U.S. broadens its export controls to stop China from acquiring advanced computer chips and the equipment to manufacture them.
Oct. 18: Russian President Vladimir Putin meets Xi in Beijing on a rare trip abroad to attend China’s Belt and Road Forum. China and the U.S. are divided over the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Oct. 22: Chinese ships collide with two Philippine ships delivering supplies to troops in the South China Sea, prompting a warning from the U.S. that it would defend the Philippines in case of an armed attack
Oct. 24: A Chinese fighter jet flies within 10 feet (3 meters) of an American B-52 bomber flying over the South China Sea in a nighttime intercept. Separately, China announces the dismissal of Defense Minister Li Shangfu with no explanation why.
Oct. 25: Xi has a surprise meeting with California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who is on a weeklong visit to China to deepen cooperation on climate.
Oct. 27: Wang meets Biden in Washington, D.C., as well as Sullivan and Blinken as two sides hammer out details for a Biden-Xi summit. Wang meets Biden, Sullivan and Blinken in Washington, D.C.
Oct. 30: The U.S. sends the Pentagon’s top China official to China’s annual Xiangshan forum on security. China’s Vice President Han Zheng meets two American veterans who were part of the Flying Tigers command that helped defend China against Japan in World War II.
Nov 2: U.S. farm industry groups hold forum in Beijing to strengthen agricultural trade. American Ballet Theatre opens its first tour to China in a decade.
Nov. 4-7: Climate envoys John Kerry and Xie Zhenhua meet in California ahead of a U.N. climate change conference that starts on Nov. 30 in Dubai.
Nov. 6: The U.S. and China hold arms control talks in Washington. The U.S. has expressed concern about China’s growing nuclear arsenal.
Nov 9: The Chinese and U.S. militaries discuss via video link the search for the remains of American prisoners of war and missing personnel.
Nov. 9-10: Vice Premier He Lifeng travels to San Francisco to meet Yellen, who says the talks helped lay the groundwork for a productive Biden-Xi summit.
Nov. 10: Members of the Philadelphia Orchestra perform in Beijing to mark 50th anniversary of its historic 1973 visit.
Nov. 15: Xi and Biden holding summit during Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in San Francisco.
Associated Press researcher Yu Bing in Beijing contributed to this report.
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