China Seeks Biden-Xi Summit in April If Alaska Talks Succeed
Xi Jinping, listens while Joe Biden speaks at the International Studies Learning Center in South Gate, California, U.S., on Feb. 17, 2012. (Photographer: Tim Rue/Bloomberg)

China Seeks Biden-Xi Summit in April If Alaska Talks Succeed

Beijing is seeking a meeting between Joe Biden and Xi Jinping next month if the first high-level U.S.-China talks in Alaska starting Thursday are productive, said people familiar with the situation.

The Biden-Xi meeting as envisioned by Chinese officials would be organized around Earth Day on April 22 to show both leaders are focused on combating climate change, one of the people said. Biden is already set to gather global leaders together on that day to push the world for greater ambition in curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

The prospect of a meeting with Xi was reported earlier by the Wall Street Journal.

When asked whether the diplomats will discuss a Xi-Biden meeting during their talks in Alaska and if a meeting of the two leaders is planned, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said no such arrangements have been made. He later added that the two countries will discuss a range of topics.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday that it was too early to discuss individual leader meetings in connection with the climate summit.

Asked under what conditions a Biden-Xi meeting could take place, she said, “I don’t think I’m here to set conditions today.” Biden is “eager” to get a debrief from his national security team after the Alaska meetings, and “work with them to determine what the next right step is,” she said.

Washington and Beijing have played down expectations for the talks in Alaska, which are set for Thursday and Friday local time. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan will represent the U.S., while Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Politburo member Yang Jiechi will speak for China.

China’s expectations for the meeting aren’t “too high,” Cui Tiankai, China’s ambassador to the U.S., said in comments reported by state-run China Central Television. It will be a success if it starts an “honest, constructive and rational” dialogue, he added.

The Chinese delegation arrived in Anchorage earlier Thursday, state broadcaster China Central Television reported. Blinken was scheduled to depart Seoul later in the evening.

How to Describe?

The countries have sparred over how to characterize the talks, with the U.S. disputing China’s characterization of the meeting as a “high-level strategic dialogue.” Blinken on Wednesday said it would be an opportunity “to very directly, face-to-face, share with our Chinese counterparts the concerns that the United States has, that our allies and partners have about some of the things that China is doing.”

China has urged the Biden administration to remove tariffs and sanctions imposed during Donald Trump’s presidency, as well as measures to restrict sales of key technology to Chinese companies. The foreign ministry in Beijing last week said the U.S. “isn’t a reliable country that is to be trusted” after administration officials tightened restrictions on Huawei Technologies Co.

Trials will start Friday and Monday, respectively, for two Canadians accused of violating national security laws who were detained shortly after the December 2018 arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, the daughter of company founder Ren Zhengfei. China has often linked the cases to Meng’s, with a Foreign Ministry spokesman telling reporters last year that halting the extradition “could open up space for resolution to the situation of the two Canadians.”

Sparring vs. Cooperation

The U.S. and China have sparred over issues such as Hong Kong, Taiwan and Xinjiang in calls since Biden took office, which Beijing has insisted are “internal” issues. But U.S. officials have also sought to stress areas of potential cooperation, including on climate change and nuclear nonproliferation.

In Seoul, Blinken noted that Biden’s approach toward North Korea was still under review and stressed China’s “clear self-interest” in getting its neighbor and Cold War ally back to the table.

On Thursday, China’s official Xinhua News Agency published a commentary saying new U.S. sanctions sent the “wrong message” before the Alaska talks. The State Department added more than a dozen Chinese officials to a list of people that banks must avoid Wednesday, putting global financial institutions on notice.

Psaki told reporters on Tuesday that the Alaska meeting wasn’t meant to establish expectations for regular encounters between the two sides.

“I wouldn’t see this as one in a series,” she said. “This is a meeting that our national security adviser and secretary of state are attending, and I wouldn’t build it out beyond there at this point in time.”

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