Biden and Xi agree on curbing fentanyl production and resuming military talks. Follow live updates
Nov 15, 2023, 7:00 PM
(Doug Mills/The New York Times via AP, Pool)
WOODSIDE, Calif. (AP) — President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping met Wednesday on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperative conference, reaching agreements in several key areas.
They agreed to work together to curb the production of illicit fentanyl, resume military-to-military communications, engage in intergovernmental dialogue on artificial intelligence and add direct flights between the two countries.
The outcome of Wednesday’s talks could have far-reaching implications for an anxious world that is grappling with global economic cross-currents from the pandemic, wars in the Middle East and Europe, upcoming elections in Taiwan and more. Follow live updates.
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Biden says he believes Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza will only stop once the militant group’s ability to kill and injure Israelis is degraded, even as he said he was urging Israel to exercise caution as it carried out military operations in Gaza’s largest hospital.
Biden made the comments at a news conference Wednesday after meeting with Xi on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperative conference in California.
“I think it’s going to stop when Hamas no longer maintains the capacity to murder,” Biden said of the war, which was sparked by Hamas’s surprise Oct. 7 assault on Israel that killed at least 1,200 people, mostly civilians.
Biden said he had discussed with the Israelis their need to “be incredibly careful” as they worked to clear Shifa Hospital, where Biden said he was absolutely confident in sharing Israel’s assessment that Hamas maintains a significant military presence intermixed with civilian infrastructure.
Biden maintained that “the only ultimate answer here is a two-state solution” with Israel and Palestinians living side by side.
Experts on China-U.S. relations say the agreements between Biden and Xi will have a significance in the future of the two countries’ relationship.
Zoe Liu, a fellow for China studies at the Council for Foreign Relations, said the agreements on fentanyl and military to military dialogues are “positive signs indicating both countries aim to put a floor to prevent the bilateral relationship from further deteriorating.”
But, Liu said, “these agreements will not change the structural challenges in the bilateral relations, but it paves the way for more detailed working-level discussions, which is more important.”
Zhang Yang, an assistant professor at American University’s School of International Service, said the visit is symbolically significant for Xi.
Zhang said Xi wants to make it clear that he’s the one who makes key decisions about Chinese foreign policy. But he also wants to signal to the Chinese people that Biden respects him and that he’s been handling the relationship well.
Biden and Xi’s meeting Wednesday was mostly business, but it wasn’t all serious.
The U.S. president took time to wish Xi’s wife, Peng Liyuan, a happy birthday, according to a senior Biden administration official. The two share a birthday, Nov. 20, which is coming up on Monday.
But it appears Xi needed some reminders. According to the official, the Chinese leader was a bit embarrassed and noted to Biden that he had been working so hard that he had forgotten his wife’s birthday was next week.
Biden and Xi engaged in other chitchat, sharing memories of the times they had met before, the U.S. official said.
Xi says he and Biden agreed to establish intergovernmental dialogue on artificial intelligence, cooperate on counternarcotics, resume high-level military dialogue on the basis of equity and respect, and add direct flights between the two countries, among other topics.
The two leaders also stressed the urgency for the two countries to cope with the climate crisis, according to a statement released by the state broadcaster.
For China, the most important issues in Biden and Xi’s talks were Taiwan and the U.S. sanctions and restrictions against Chinese products and businesses, according to a statement released by China Central Television, the state broadcaster.
Xi urged the U.S. to stop arming Taiwan but support China’s peaceful unification with the self-governed island. Xi stressed the importance of the Taiwan issue, calling it “the most important and most sensitive issue” in the bilateral relations.
Xi also raised Beijing’s concerns over export controls, investment screenings and sanctions imposed by the U.S., which he said “have severely harmed China’s legitimate interests.”
“Suppressing China’s technology is to curb China’s high-quality development and depriving the development rights of the Chinese people,” Xi said. “We hope the U.S. side can seriously treat China’s concerns and take actions to remove unilateral sanctions and provide a fair, just, non-discriminatory environment for Chinese businesses.”
Biden and Xi have reached agreements on several key areas that include curbing the production of illicit fentanyl and resuming military-to-military communications, according to a senior Biden administration official.
The official said the most important agreement between the two leaders was on fentanyl because it will set Latin American drug dealers “back for a time.” The official spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity to discuss a private meeting.
The resumption of military communications means Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will speak with his Chinese counterpart once that person is named, as will senior U.S. military commanders with their counterparts, along with engagements at much lower levels, the official said.
Biden was “very clear” to Xi that such communications and dialogue between U.S. and China should be institutionalized and that they are “not done as a gift or as a favor to either side,” the official said.
— Associated Press reporter Aamer Madhani
After lunch, Biden after took a short walk on the property with Xi, winding along a brick path where the two leaders were able to get a good look at the hillside and property’s impressive topiary.
Asked by reporters how the meeting was going, Biden responded with a thumb’s up and said the talks were going well.
Biden is having a working lunch with Xi featuring such dishes as pilaf made from a style of rice popular in South Carolina.
The pair met for around two hours and 20 minutes, then took a break before beginning the meal.
More discussions are likely to come after lunch. In the meantime, though, neither side will go hungry.
According to the White House, the menu featured herbed ricotta ravioli, artichoke crisps, tarragon roasted heritage chicken, Carolina gold rice pilaf and charred broccolini and Brussels sprouts. Dessert consisted of almond meringue cake, praline buttercream and Concord grape sauce.
The White House says Biden and Xi finished their first round of talks after more than two hours. The expanded bilateral meeting, which concluded at 1:35 p.m. local time in California, included Biden, Xi and a dozen government officials for each country.
After a short break, the two sides reconvened for a working lunch at 2:07 p.m., the White House said. The lunch includes Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and national security adviser Jake Sullivan. Xi is participating in the lunch with Foreign Minister Wang Yi and chief of staff Cai Qi.
To the domestic audience in China, Beijing continues to blame the U.S. for problems in the bilateral relations and urges Washington to “establish correct views” of China.
The official news service Xinhua said in a series of editorials that Washington should walk out of its “zero-sum” mentality and expand cooperation to further stabilize and improve bilateral relations.
Beijing has expressed hope that Washington would respond with “concrete actions.”
“We hope the positive attitudes as shown by the US in recent interactions are not political calculations and tactical opportunism,” Xinhua said in an editorial. “We hope the oral promises made will become concrete policies and actions.”
Ahead of the meeting between Biden and Xi, senior White House officials said Biden would walk away from the talks with major announcements expected on curbing the flow of chemicals used in the production of fentanyl and concrete steps to revive military-to-military communications.
The lush estate where Biden and Xi are meeting may look familiar to 1980s television fans or movie buffs fond of Michael Douglas.
Biden and Xi were speaking behind closed doors at the Filoli Historic House and Garden, which features a Georgian revival-style mansion and a formal, English Renaissance-style garden.
The retreat consist of 16 acres of formal gardens and is surrounded by a 654-acre estate. It is located in Woodside, California, about 25 miles south of San Francisco.
The property was built in 1917 as a private estate for the Bourn and Roth families, but has since become a National Trust for Historic Preservation site. It is normally open to the public, but a message at the top of the estate’s website currently reads, “Filoli is closed November 13-15 while we deck the halls for the Holidays!”
David Fincher’s 1997 mystery/thriller “The Game,” which starred Douglas, was filmed in part on the property. So was the multipart pilot for ABC’s primetime soap opera “Dynasty,” which aired from 1981 to 1989.
“I’m still of the view that major country competition is not the prevailing trend of current times and cannot solve the problems facing China and the United States or the world at large. Planet Earth is big enough for the two countries to succeed. And one country’s success is an opportunity for the other.” — Xi in remarks after shaking hands with Biden
Biden and Xi are stressing the need for their nations to strengthen mutual understanding while cautioning that their interests will sometimes conflict.
The pair opened their face-to-face meeting in the San Francisco Bay area with a solid handshake. Later, they sat at one long table together rather than at separate ones.
Even small details like floral arrangements were important for a meeting where protocol is of the utmost importance. Flowers on the table appeared to be evergreens.
Biden said the purpose of the meeting was to “understand each other.” He said, “As always, there’s no substitute to face-to-face discussions.” He added of Xi, “We’ve known each other for a long time. We haven’t always agreed.”
Biden also said that he wants “no misconceptions or miscommunications” and that the two leaders have to “ensure that competition doesn’t veer into conflict.”
Xi spoke of the need to strengthen cooperation to combat climate change but also condemned what he called rising “protectionism.”
Biden says the aim of the APEC summit is for leaders to “understand each other.” Xi says they bear “heavy responsibilities” for the world.
The two leaders made the comments Wednesday after shaking hands in their first face-to-face meeting in more than a year.
Biden and Xi have opened their first face-to-face meeting in more than a year with a solid handshake ahead of talks with far-reaching implications for a world grappling with economic cross currents, wars in the Middle East and Europe, tensions in Taiwan and more.
The two leaders, meeting at a bucolic country estate outside San Francisco, are looking to get communications back on track after a tumultuous year and to show the world that while they are global economic competitors, they’re not locked in a winner-take-all faceoff.
Since the two leaders last met, already fraught ties have been further strained by the U.S. downing of a Chinese spy balloon, differences on the self-ruled island of Taiwan, China’s hacking of a Biden official’s emails and other incidents.
A large crowd gathered in front of the Chinese consulate to condemn Xi has started marching toward Moscone Center, where main APEC events are being held.
They held signs reading “Free Hong Kong” and “Tibet belongs to Tibetans” and chanted “Free Tibet” and “Down with the CCP,” referring to the Chinese Communist Party. They started matching around 11 a.m. Wednesday local time.
Speakers implored the Biden administration to stand up to Xi and his human rights violations.
Ahead of the meeting between Biden and Xi, senior White House officials said Biden would walk away from the talks with major announcements expected on curbing the flow of chemicals used in the production of fentanyl and concrete steps to revive military to military communications.
One senior administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to preview aspects of the meeting, said Wednesday’s talks will stand out from the last time Biden and Xi spoke a year ago in Bali.
The official said there weren’t concrete agreements coming out of Bali, unlike what is expected on Wednesday.
— Associated Press writer Aamer Madhani