DC EDIT | Biden, Xi calm troubled waters
The leaders of the world’s two largest economies and armed forces may at best have agreed to disagree as they met in person for the first time since Joe Biden was elected as President of the United States and Xi Jinping was anointed leader of the Chinese Communist Party for an unprecedented third term. The significance of their three-hour meeting and their frank exchange of views in all that time is, however, enormous.
A deeply polarised world it may be which is in conflict in various places. But the fact that the lines of communication are open again and which could prevent the US-China relationship from devolving further is cause for celebration enough. However, neither leader conceded any ground on multiple areas of disagreement — trade, self-ruled Taiwan, US curbs on sale of high technology equipment like advanced semiconductors to China, economic issues like global debt and high interest costs to smaller nations, the pandemic, climate negotiations and human rights.
The exemplary way in which they approached the high-profile meeting brought the G20 summit alive in the posh Nusa Dua area in Bali, Indonesia. Mr Biden and Mr Xi, with a solid personal relationship going back over a decade, showed the world how important it is to talk face to face. More so at such a time of global conflict causing more stress when economic headwinds are blowing harder thanks to the prolonging of the war in Ukraine by Russia.
They spoke a lot about Taiwan and the Chinese threat to the island but with the reassurance from Mr Biden that the US stood by its “one China policy”. This was a clear point of highest friction in which Mr Xi warned the US about crossing the “red line”. And yet Mr Biden’s call not to let it all descend to a second Cold War means the world is in a better place now, even in fraught times. They parted on the promising note of not letting a caustic relationship worsen and to resume engagement at all levels.
It is a pity that Vladimir Putin did not make it to Bali. However abrasive the atmosphere may have been if he was present, the Russian leader may at least have surmised that it is possible to meet leaders and talk to them as Mr Biden and Mr Xi did.