President Joe Biden Announces Agreement Between US and China to Restore Military-to-Military Communications, Easing Tensions
“We’ve returned to straightforward, open, and clear communication,” he remarked after an uncommon meeting with China’s President Xi Jinping in California on Wednesday. This marked the first in-person conversation between the two in over a year.
Despite the positive development, tension lingered as President Biden reiterated his characterization of Mr. Xi as a dictator. China’s foreign ministry later criticized the comments, but they seem not to have overshadowed what both sides describe as a generally successful meeting.
President Biden also disclosed that both leaders had agreed to establish a direct communication line, emphasizing that a lack of communication is a breeding ground for accidents. He highlighted that now both presidents can “pick up the phone and be directly heard immediately.”
Military-to-military communications were severed by China last year after then-US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan, a move Beijing considers a part of its territory. President Biden acknowledged remaining disagreements but praised Mr. Xi for being straightforward, labeling the talks as some of the most constructive and productive discussions.
At a subsequent dinner with US business leaders, President Xi openly expressed his desire to foster better relations with the US. He emphasized the need to build more bridges and pave roads between the two nations. However, on a less positive note, as President Biden exited the stage, he referred to Mr. Xi as a dictator, echoing similar sentiments from June. China’s foreign ministry condemned this description as “extremely wrong” and “irresponsible political manipulation.”
Despite this sour note, the overall meeting was perceived as positive, as evident in Xinhua’s readout. Besides resuming military communications, the leaders announced agreements on various contentious issues, such as addressing the flow of fentanyl into the US, a problem linked to Chinese manufacturing companies. The deal involves direct action against companies producing precursor chemicals, with President Biden stating it will “save lives.”
Other topics discussed included the conflict in Israel and Gaza, with President Biden reportedly urging China to use its influence with Iran to discourage provocative steps. Additionally, the two superpowers agreed to jointly explore artificial intelligence and extensively discussed Taiwan, which President Xi reportedly deemed the most significant and dangerous issue in US-China ties, according to a US official.
After the discussions, China announced the restoration of communication between the two militaries, emphasizing the foundation of “equality and respect.”
Despite high expectations for the meeting during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, officials on both sides downplayed the likelihood of significant breakthroughs.
A senior official from the US administration stated, “The goals here really are about managing the competition, preventing the downside of risk – of conflict, and ensuring channels of communication are open.”
Relations had soured in February following the downing of a suspected Chinese spy balloon over US airspace. In June, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Beijing, marking the highest-ranking Washington official’s visit to the Chinese capital in nearly half a decade. During the visit, he met with President Xi and then Foreign Minister Qin Gang.
Reflecting on the trip, Mr. Blinken acknowledged ongoing major issues between the two countries but expressed hope for “better communications [and] better engagement going forward.”