Biden hopes US and China can restore military communications

US leader set to hold talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping at Apec forum

US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping meet on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Bali Indonesia last year. AP
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US President Joe Biden has said that restoring military communications with Beijing would constitute a successful meeting with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.

Both leaders are expected to meet on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum in San Francisco this week.

Washington and Beijing have sought to thaw tension with a series of high-profile visits from top officials in recent months following a year in which the relationship between the two superpowers became increasingly strained.

Those efforts will culminate in a Wednesday meeting between Mr Biden and Mr Xi, their second in-person meeting since the US President assumed office.

When asked how he would define a successful meeting, Mr Biden spoke of hopes for a broad improvement in communication.

“To get back on a normal course of correspondence, being able to pick up the phone and talk to one another during a crisis, being able to make sure our military still have contact with one another,” he said.

Beijing cut communication between its military and the Pentagon after former US House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan in 2022.

The US believes that being in regular contact with China's military would help to keep peace in the Indo-Pacific region and avoid any miscommunication that could jeopardise that.

US seeking better relationship with China

Mr Biden also reiterated his administration's stance that the US is not seeking to decouple its economy from China's.

“What we're trying to do is change the relationship for the better,” he said.

The US President also said he believes a Chinese economy in which its citizens have well-paying jobs is a benefit for everyone.

“But I'm not going to continue to sustain support for a position where in order to invest in China, we have to turn over all our trade secrets,” he said.

Speaking at the Apec forum ahead of Mr Biden's visit, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said responsibly managing the US-China economic relationship remains a key priority and that the forum could be used to “stabilise the relationship”.

“There is hard work ahead of us, but I believe our engagements here have moved us along the right path,” Ms Yellen said.

However, a report to Congress has found that the US-China rivalry is actually worsening despite efforts to improve relations.

“None of the flurry of visits and other diplomacy over the past year have resulted in any significant change of course by the regime,” the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission said in its annual report.

“The result of high-level meetings between the United States and China has been merely the promise of further meetings – that is, of more talk, rather than concrete actions.”

The commission said that China could be on the verge of its most serious economic crisis in four decades, with its economic growth remaining “anaemic”. It added that Beijing is still maintaining the “same aggressive course on foreign policy” that is has held for years.

Updated: November 14, 2023, 6:09 PM