US President Joe Biden (Joe Biden) and Chinese President Xi Jinping had a three-and-a-half-hour video meeting on Tuesday (November 16) Beijing time. This is the first summit between the two heads of state since Biden took power.
The atmosphere of the meeting was generally friendly, and both leaders tried to use a moderate tone. Biden told Xi Jinping in his opening remarks that the two countries need to establish “some common sense guardrails”, while Xi Jinping referred to Biden as an “old friend.”
However, the US White House and China’s official news agency Xinhua issued separate briefings after the talks, showing that the two sides are still “talking about each other” on several long-standing controversial issues, including Biden’s violations of China in Xinjiang, Tibet, and Hong Kong. Human rights expressed concern, while Xi Jinping referred to US support for Taiwan as “playing with fire.”
Although observers generally believed that there was no substantial breakthrough in the talks, senior US officials revealed that the two sides agreed to conduct arms control negotiations. One day after the talks, the two countries also announced that they would give each other’s media reporters more freedom.
Agreed to consider arms control negotiations
US Presidential National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan (Jake Sullivan) said on Tuesday (November 16) that Biden and Xi Jinping had agreed to consider arms control talks during their talks.
In an online seminar at the Brookings Institution, a think tank, Sullivan was asked whether Biden had discussed with Xi Jinping on China’s expansion of its nuclear arsenal and the test launch of hypersonic missiles. Xi Jinping put forward the necessity of dialogue on strategic stability around these issues.
“The two leaders agreed that we will seek to start discussions on strategic stability,” Sullivan said. “This needs to be led by high-level teams across security, technology and diplomacy under the guidance of leaders.”
Sullivan did not elaborate on the format of the talks, but he said that the Sino-US strategic stability dialogue will be different from the formal strategic stability dialogue between the United States and Russia because the latter is “much more mature and has a long history.”
Beijing has recently been rapidly strengthening its military capabilities, including nuclear capabilities. American researchers discovered in the first half of this year that China is building more than 100 new intercontinental ballistic missile silos in the northwestern desert.
In October of this year, China reportedly tested a hypersonic missile that can carry a nuclear warhead, but the current US missile defense system cannot intercept it. The top general of the U.S. military, Mark Milley, described it as almost a “Sputnik moment”, referring to the turning point in the competition between the United States and the Soviet Union in the last century that made the United States aware of backwardness.
According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, a Chinese official who was briefed on the talks said that the two sides have not yet decided on the form of arms control talks. The Chinese official said that one option is for non-governmental experts from the two countries to start a new “track two” dialogue.
This unofficial behind-the-scenes diplomacy is often used to assist officials in managing and resolving conflicts, so that solutions can be explored without being bound by formal negotiations.
Relaxation of visa restrictions for journalists
After the summit, China and the United States also announced that they would relax each other’s visa restrictions on journalists. This move will ease the diplomatic confrontation between China and the United States that expelled journalists from each other in the late U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration.
According to the consensus of both parties, the United States will issue multiple entry visas to Chinese journalists for one year. China promises that once the US policy takes effect, it will give American journalists equal treatment.
Previously, China had accused the United States of discriminatory policies against Chinese journalists stationed in the United States. All visas issued were single-entry, and Chinese journalists had to re-apply for visas after leaving the country.
According to China Daily, the official Chinese media, quoting sources from the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, this is one of the three-point consensus reached by the two parties before the video meeting, after more than a year of “difficult negotiations.”
A spokesperson for the U.S. State Department provided a similar statement, stating that China has promised to allow American journalists already in China to leave and return freely. The US State Department said that the US plans to facilitate similar treatment for Chinese journalists.
The spokesperson said: “We welcome this development, but believe that this is only a preliminary measure,” adding that “China’s media environment has deteriorated significantly in recent years.”
In February 2020, the United States decided to list a number of Chinese official media as “foreign missions”, thereby imposing stricter restrictions on them.
Five media outlets, including Xinhua News Agency and China Global Television Network (CGTN), were told that they needed approval to purchase any real estate and were required to submit a list of all employees. China condemned this as “political oppression.”
A month later, China expelled 13 American journalists from major American media such as the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal, and imposed restrictions on American journalists’ visa applications. It is not clear whether journalists who were previously expelled will be allowed to return to China after the new policy takes effect.
Taiwan issue is still the focus
Since 2018, China and the United States have had differences in trade, military, human rights, technology and other fields. However, as the situation in the Taiwan Strait has become tense again, the Taiwan issue has become one of the core differences between the two countries.
At the meeting, Biden told Xi Jinping that the United States still adheres to the long-standing “One China” policy based on the Taiwan Relations Act, the three joint communiqués, and six guarantees, and firmly opposes unilateral changes to the status quo or acts that undermine peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. .
Sullivan revealed that Xi Jinping and Biden spent a lot of time discussing the Taiwan issue. Biden even directly reminded Xi Jinping that when he was a senator in the 1970s, he voted for the Taiwan Relations Act.
But Xi Jinping also made almost the toughest voice in the entire talks on the Taiwan issue. He said that some people in the United States deliberately engage in “using Taiwan to control China.” This trend is very dangerous.
He also warned that if the “Taiwan independence” separatist forces provoke and persecute, or even break through the red line, China will “have to take drastic measures.”
After the talks between the two heads of state, Biden responded to reporters’ questions on the Taiwan issue. His ambiguous and subtle answers once again highlighted the sensitivity of the issue.
He told reporters in New Hampshire on Tuesday (November 16) that it (Taiwan) is “independent” and that it “makes its own decisions.”
A few hours later, Biden clarified that the US government’s Taiwan policy has not changed and that the US does not encourage Taiwan’s independence, but instead allows Taiwan to make its own decisions.
“We will not change our policies at all,” Biden told reporters. “We do not encourage independence, and we encourage them to fully comply with the requirements of the Taiwan Relations Act.”
Did not talk about the Beijing Winter Olympics
White House spokesperson Andrew Bates said on Tuesday (November 16) that Biden and Xi Jinping did not discuss the Beijing Winter Olympics during their talks.
Earlier, there were media reports that Xi Jinping might have invited Biden to attend the Beijing Winter Olympics during his talks with Biden, but this statement has not been officially confirmed by the two countries.