December 3, 2023

Chinese leader Xi Jinping may soon meet face-to-face with U.S. President Joe Biden, and speculation about the reason China wants to hold dialogue has grown as the diplomatic relations are the most tense between the two countries in decades.

Ryan Hass, director of the John L. Thornton China Center at the Brookings Institution, believes Xi’s willingness to meet Biden during a potential upcoming trip to the U.S. may have to do with China’s economic woes.

“Particularly when Xi faces a confidence deficit inside China for overseeing a softening economy and increasingly strained foreign relations, the image of Xi being accorded more than a customary meeting with Biden will hold added value for him,” Hass wrote for Brookings.

Xi last traveled to the U.S. in 2017 when he was hosted by then-President Donald Trump at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

A storm has gathered around China’s economic troubles as the U.S.’s recent semiconductor restrictions have contributed to the economic slowdown in the high-tech growth prospects, which may have partially brought Xi to the negotiating table.

China may want some reprieve on the chip restrictions imposed by Washington in the past year. On October 17, the U.S. Department of Commerce further tightened the semiconductor export control restrictions to close the loopholes used by the Chinese companies seeking to advance their semiconductor technology.

Biden meets with Xi virtually
U.S. President Joe Biden participates in a virtual meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on November 15, 2021, in Washington, D.C. Experts believe Xi may have a reason to meet Biden face-to-face.
Alex Wong/Getty Images News/WireImage

If Xi and Biden do meet next month, the meeting will take place under the shadow of accusations by both sides over recent dangerous military maneuvers by two sides in the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait.

Hass believes that the meeting will give Xi an opportunity to show the domestic audience that he “remains capable of recalibrating relations with the United States,” which would allow Beijing to manage relations with other powers in Asia and Europe.

But Hass also argues the two sides don’t hold “false hopes of breakthroughs or dramatic improvements in relations,” while the two leaders “see the benefit of capping tensions at current levels.”

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is currently in the U.S. to pave the way for a potential visit by Xi to San Francisco for the APEC Summit. Wang Yi met with the U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken on Thursday while he was slated to meet Biden on Friday.

Wang Yi said that resuming dialogue with the U.S. wouldn’t be enough as the “dialogue should be in-depth and comprehensive.” Wang was pointing out that the two sides have made little progress despite holding multiple high-level dialogues in the past few months.

“Because we think what is right and what is wrong is not determined by who has the stronger arm or a louder voice, but by seeing if one behaves in a way that is consistent with the provisions of the three China-U.S. joint communiques, consistent with international law and basic norms of international relations, and consistent with the development trend of the times,” said Wang in Washington on Thursday.