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What To Expect From Biden And Xi’s High Stakes San Francisco Meeting

In a renewed effort to stabilize increasingly shaky relations between the two powers, U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping will meet today in San Francisco.

But what can be expected from the November 15 meeting on the sidelines of the APEC summit?

Finding Perspective: This marks their first meeting as leaders since Biden and Xi sat down together at the G20 summit in Bali a year ago and it's been a difficult diplomatic road to reach this point, including degraded ties following a suspected Chinese spy balloon that flew over the United States in February.

The focus of the talks is expected to be Taiwan, which remains a source of tensions between Beijing and Washington. The self-governing island, which China regards as its own territory, is set to hold elections in January 2024 and the meeting will also factor into discussions around the upcoming U.S. election that will take place in a year's time, in November 2024.

Politico also reported that Biden will raise tensions in the Middle East with Xi and urge him to use his influence with Iran to prevent Tehran and its proxies from exploiting the Israel-Hamas war to stoke a broader conflict.

With those potential obstacles for relations ahead, White House officials have said they expect tough discussions. Most analysts say that the goal on both sides is to lower the temperature in the relationship and serve up some favorable optics for each leader's domestic audience.

"For both sides, the preferred outcome from the meeting is that there will not be much to write home about," said Agathe Demarais, a senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

Why It Matters: We already saw some early steps taken ahead of the November 15 meeting, which U.S. officials said could last four hours with simultaneous interpretation.

On November 13 and 14, reports have signaled a series of measures that could be unveiled at the meeting and would work towards raising the floor of the relationship with Washington.

They include: China buying 3 million tons of U.S. soybeans, Beijing ending a long commercial freeze on sales of Boeing's 737-max aircraft, restricting the export of chemicals to the United States that are used as precursors to make fentanyl, and a decision to raise the number of regular flights between both countries.

The United States has also agreed to lift sanctions on China's forensic police institute and both countries have announced some further cooperation to fight climate change, the State Department said.

Few expect that the meeting will stall the deepening rivalry, but a shift in tone may provide a welcome reprieve as Xi faces an increasingly bleak economic outlook and Biden prepares for a difficult election cycle.

Unlike the last time the two leaders met in Bali and Xi adopted a more conciliatory message, Ukraine is unlikely to factor into discussions between Beijing and Washington in San Francisco.

"U.S. calls that China clamp down on the export of high-tech goods to Russia are wishful thinking and the American side should probably not spend too much time on making such demands," Demarais said.


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RFE/RL journalists report the news in 21 countries where a free press is banned by the government or not fully established. We provide what many… More