For China and the US, talking itself beats not talking
Published: Nov 28, 2023 07:13 PM
Chinese President Xi Jinping meets with U.S. President Joe Biden at Filoli Estate in the U.S. state of California, Nov. 15, 2023. Photo: Xinhua

Chinese President Xi Jinping meets with U.S. President Joe Biden at Filoli Estate in the U.S. state of California, Nov. 15, 2023. Photo: Xinhua

For China and the US, the journey from Bali to San Francisco has not been an easy one. Black swans and gray rhinos chipped away at the very foundations of mutual trust. A wandering balloon evaporated a visit by the US secretary of state. Then, recent exchanges of high-level visits signaled a joint effort to bring the relationship back on track. In this context, the holding of a summit meeting between President Xi Jinping and President Joe Biden at the Filoli Estate is, in itself, a new starting point. 

Face to face

The fact that the US also extended an invitation for a standalone meeting — followed by a two-person stroll, different from bilateral meetings on the sidelines of APEC, speaks volumes. This face-to-face meeting between both presidents during President Xi's first visit to the US in six years comes at a time when the world needs a stable China-US relationship more than ever.

The Chinese side has described the four-hour summit meeting as one that provides "stewardship" and "a future-oriented San Francisco vision" for the steady growth of bilateral relations. The two leaders exchanged views on the most important issues confronting the relationship. President Xi pointed out that the two countries should jointly develop a right perception, manage disagreements effectively, advance mutually beneficial cooperation, shoulder responsibilities as major countries and promote people-to-people exchanges.

Areas of difference and sensitive issues were addressed candidly. President Xi elaborated on China's principled position on the most important and most sensitive issue in China-US relations, the Taiwan question. He also pointed out that attempts to curb China on economy, trade and technology are creating risks instead of "de-risking." Being candid and open is a good start. What also matters is whether it will be followed by meaningful action.

Abundant fruits

The meeting produced a record 20-plus deliverables. "It was a useful meeting: Biden and Xi agreed to restart military-to-military communications, curb the deadly opioid fentanyl, fight climate change and discuss risks associated with artificial intelligence," President Emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations Richard Haass highlighted. CNN chimed in, saying "An agreement to re-establish contacts between the US and Chinese militaries may be the most important thing Biden does this year."

In addition, there is good news for travelers, students, climate watchers and the business community alike. The breadth of areas covered is a testament of the extensive common interests and the mutually beneficial nature of relations between the two largest economies in the world, no matter how fervently some in Washington peddle the competition narrative.

At the Georgian revival-style mansion, President Biden showed President Xi an old photo taken by the Golden Gate Bridge on his cellphone, "Do you know this young man?" he asked. "Yes, that was me 38 years ago," President Xi replied. "You haven't changed a bit!" President Biden exclaimed. The crowd burst into cheerful laughter. Moments of high-level affinity spell a recipe for reducing distrust and miscalculation.

Inspiring hope

President Xi assessed that the hope of the China-US relationship lies in the people, its foundation is in our societies and its future depends on the youth. A recent poll among the American public showed that 73 percent of those surveyed support high-level dialogue with China, hoping the summit meeting will help stabilize the bilateral relationship.

The rationale for popular support is simple. No matter how high politics evolve, people of the two countries, and around the world, have some common values and pursuits. They want to feel safe and secure, and they want to live in peace and predictability. They want quality products and services at affordable prices. And most importantly, they want to believe that there is hope lying ahead. Hope for this planet. Hope for their children.

Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things. For China and the US, talking itself beats not talking, for talking provides hope. People are counting on the two countries to, through follow-up actions, keep hope alive this winter and embrace a vibrant spring.

The author is a Beijing-based international affairs commentator. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn