A Huge Sigh of Relief – Takeaways from the Biden-Xi Summit

A Huge Sigh of Relief – Takeaways from the Biden-Xi Summit

Did you hear that huge sigh of relief after US President Joe Biden met with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Nov. 16 near San Francisco? Like many others in China and the US, I felt encouraged that both leaders have toned down the belligerence and animosity that have soured US-China relations for five years. As Xi Jinping said: “The world needs China and the United States to work together for a better future.”
Key Takeaways from the Summit:
1. When the leaders of the world’s two largest economies speak in measured, reasonable tones – with no strident “wolf warrior” digs by China and no scolding condescension from the US – the world becomes a safer place. Bellicose language and threats can escalate to serious danger.

2. Mutual respect – which should be central to diplomacy – has returned to the fore. We all do better when China and the US have responsible global leaders.

3. The agreement between the two countries to restore military-to-military communications – both at the top and between theater commanders off China’s coast – should help defuse tensions and resolve any accidental collisions in the sea or the air. Major powers need to be in touch with each other. Let’s hope this helps.
Americans interested in knowing “What the heck does China really want?” can find answers – and perhaps deeper perspectives – in the Nov. 15 speech Xi Jinping made to American business leaders in San Francisco. Some insights you may have missed:
1. What does China really want? Xi answered this question: “mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation.” Xi posed the rhetorical question: “Are we adversaries or partners?” and responded: “China is ready to be a partner and friend of the United States.”

2. Xi called China “the largest developing country” and the US “the largest developed country.” Many Americans don’t realize that China’s per capita GDP is only $12,541 – only one-fifth of the US level of $64,187. As advanced as China is becoming in semiconductors, artificial intelligence, supercomputers, and space travel, China is still a middle-income country. It has a long way to go before its economy is as developed as ours. Xi said his top goal is to eliminate poverty and to realize common prosperity for all Chinese.

3. Wait! But isn’t China a military threat, eager to displace the US as the world’s superpower? Xi’s response: “It is wrong to view China, which is committed to peaceful development, as a threat and thus play a zero-sum game against it. China never bets against the United States, and never interferes in its internal affairs. China has no intention to challenge the United States or to unseat it.”

4. But Beijing is aggressive and expansionist, right? That’s what we have been told. Xi’s response: “Aggression and expansion are not in our genes. The Chinese people have bitter and deep memories of the turmoils and sufferings inflicted upon them in modern times. … What the Chinese people oppose is war, what they want is stability, and what they hope for is enduring world peace.” China cannot achieve its development goals “without a peaceful and stable international environment.”

5. But China is just like Russia, right? Ready to invade neighboring countries? Xi’s comment: “Since the founding of the People’s Republic, China has not provoked a conflict or war, or occupied a single inch of foreign land.” The clashes with India are over disputed territory and have involved knives and fists, not guns. Hong Kong, Taiwan, Tibet and Xinjiang belonged to China for hundreds of years.

6. Of course, Beijing wants to overtake the US as the next superpower, projecting its military power around the world, right? Xi’s response: “China will never pursue hegemony or expansion, and will never impose its will on others. China does not seek spheres of influence, and will not fight a cold war or a hot war with anyone. China will remain committed to dialogue and oppose confrontation, and build partnerships instead of alliances.”

Maybe Xi Jinping is not to be trusted. Our military can’t just take him at his word; we need to be prepared. But before we pre-judge Beijing and assume Xi’s goals are the same as ours – or as Putin’s – we should look at China’s history and at Xi Jinping’s own stated goals. Will he live up to the words he spoke in San Francisco?

The world is watching.

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About Me

Dori Jones Yang has written a wide variety of books, including historical fiction, business, inspiration, oral histories, and children’s books. A former foreign correspondent in Asia, she aims to build bridges between cultures and generations.

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