The Wiles Behind the Smiles? Asian American Media Ponder Impact of Biden-Xi Meet at APEC by Sunita Sohrabji
Chinese President Xi Jinping shakes hands with then U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (L) inside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing Dec. 4, 2013. Lintao Zhang photo/Creative Commons license
Climate change must be a top priority on the agenda as the two world leaders meet.
Asian American media have mixed responses to the expected meeting between President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, which will bring leaders from 21 countries to San Francisco from Nov. 11-17.
“We think it’s a great opportunity to expand the relationship between China and the US. I hope it is a friendly exchange,” Diana Ding, founder of Ding Ding TV, told Ethnic Media Services. Ding is the former chair of the US-China Chamber of Commerce for Silicon Valley.
“Our government and our politicians have made China a villain for so long, and this has definitely increased the number of hate crimes against Asian Americans,” said Ding, adding her hope that the Biden-Xi meet would cast a new light on China, currently characterized by politicians on both sides of the aisle as “public enemy number 1.”
As the 2024 US election heats up, anti-China rhetoric is expected to rise, perhaps fueling another wave of attacks against Asian Americans.
Will Xi Attend?
As of press time Nov. 7, China had not confirmed whether Xi would be attending APEC. And, at a White House press briefing Nov. 8, Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre — in response to a reporter’s question about whether the Biden-Xi meeting was “totally locked down” — said: “I don’t have anything to confirm here and now. Obviously, you will hear more from us in upcoming days.”
Speaking at the AAPI Leadership Forum in Sacramento Sept. 8, US Trade Representative Katherine Tai, who is hosting the APEC summit, expressed her doubts that Xi would attend APEC. She noted that Xi had skipped the G20 in New Delhi, India in September, but added that both sides have expressed interest in engaging.
“President Biden and Xi met last year in Bali, and there was very clear communication from both sides that we should engage,” said Tai.
“The US-China trade relationship is one of profound importance, not just for the US and China, but for the rest of the world. The future of our relationships have consequences for the trade aspirations of the rest of the world,” said Tai.
Yellen to Meet Chinese Vice Premier
The White House announced late last month that Biden and Xi would meet on the sidelines of the summit, without specifying where and when. US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will meet with Vice Premier He Lifeng for two days in San Francisco, beginning Nov. 9.
“The United States does not seek to decouple from China,” said Yellen at a Nov. 3 meeting at the Asia Society. “A full separation of our economies, or an approach in which countries including those in the Indo-Pacific are forced to take sides, would have significant negative global repercussions. We have no interest in such a divided world and its disastrous effects.” “And given the extent of economic linkages within the Indo-Pacific region and the complexity of global supply chains, it’s also simply not practical,” she said.
Last month, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan met with China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi. In translated remarks provided by the White House, Yang noted that China and the United States have disagreements and differences but said the two countries “share important common interests and we face challenges that we need to respond to together.”
Major Announcement Ahead?
Randall Yip, publisher of AsAm News, told EMS the two meetings with second in command officials suggest substantive policy will come out of the Xi-Biden meet. “It is an optimistic sign,” he said, noting that — in international politics — meetings between lower-level officials usually indicate some sort of major announcement.
Biden and Xi will likely discuss the management of the Israel-Hamas conflict as well as the Russia-Ukraine war, predicted Yip. “The world would welcome a climate action agreement,” he added.
Like Ding, Yip noted the alarming rise in anti-Asian attacks over the past three years. The web portal Stop AAPI Hate has collected more than 11,500 reports of hate crimes and incidents since 2020. The hysteria over the alleged Chinese “spy balloon” earlier this year only worsened the relationship with China, even as the US government admitted that the balloon had not taken any photos, noted Yip.
Armed Conflict With Taiwan?
Jean Ho, a reporter for the website NewsforChinese.com, took a different stance about the expected meet. The journalist, who is originally from Taiwan, told EMS: “Biden meeting Xi makes us a bit skeptical. They will say the right things in front of the camera, smile and be civil, but can we expect more?”
“I hope Biden will have the courage to say to Xi that the US will support Taiwan’s freedom. We are peaceful citizens, not fighters. It would be tragic if there was any kind of military take-over,” said Ho.
US military experts have predicted China will invade Taiwan at some point over the next four years in its attempt to reunify the two countries. Ho said her tiny homeland is ill-prepared for such conflict. Moreover, such conflict would have broad ramifications for the US, which is hugely dependent on Taiwanese technology.
Yip predicted the US would use the APEC forum to advance its interests in placing military bases in the region, in the event of armed conflict with China.