Beijing Review┃(张中祥)Candid, in-depth talks between heads of state a sign of increasing stability


After a meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Joe Biden at Filoli Estate, a country house outside San Francisco, California, on November 15, Biden took out his phone to show a photo to the Chinese leader. The image captured a man posing in front of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge.

"I know," Xi said with a smile. "It's me 38 years ago."

"You haven't changed a bit," Biden quipped, drawing a burst of laughter from the gathered crowd of staff and fellow officials. The two stepped into the banquet hall together amid relaxed ambience.

These moments were just a few examples of the personal diplomacy exhibited during the eagerly awaited meeting between the two leaders.

The summit in the lead-up to the 30th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders' Meeting came amid both sides' efforts to "stabilize bilateral relations," according to Wu Xinbo, Dean of the Institute of International Studies of Fudan University in Shanghai and Director of the university's Center for American Studies.

With the resumption of visits and meetings between high-ranking officials of both countries since June, and the four-hour, in-person meeting between the two leaders, "it is safe to say that China-U.S. relations are presently in a stable phase, at least for the time being," Wu told Beijing Review. "The next question revolves around the sustainability of the stability and its potential duration."

For the bilateral relations to progress, it is essential to address specific issues that have been sources of concern in the bilateral relationship, according to Wu. These include, for example, the Taiwan question. It remains uncertain whether the United States will effectively translate its commitments into actions. Additionally, challenges persist in economic and trade issues, such as the additional tariffs imposed by the U.S. on Chinese imports, as well as Washington's export restrictions on advanced technology to China and its unwarranted sanctions on Chinese companies.

"The extent to which these issues can be resolved remains uncertain," Wu noted.

What's the way out? President Xi has said more than once the foundation of China-U.S. relations is laid by the two peoples. During a welcome dinner held by friendly organizations in the U.S. on November 15, Xi emphasized that "the door of China-U.S. relations was opened by our peoples… The stories of China-U.S. relations are written by our peoples… and the future of China-U.S. relations will be created by our peoples."

Climate matters

A joint statement to combat climate crisis was released prior to the Xi-Biden summit. "It demonstrates that climate change management represents one of the areas of potential progress for cooperation," Zhang Zhongxiang, Founding Dean and Distinguished University Professor at Tianjin University's Ma Yinchu School of Economics and Director of the China Academy of Energy, Environmental and Industrial Economics, told Beijing Review.

The statement, titled Sunnylands Statement on Enhancing Cooperation to Address the Climate Crisis, came out following meetings between China's Special Envoy on Climate Change Xie Zhenhua and his U.S. counterpart John Kerry in Beijing from July 16 to 19 and at Sunnylands, California, from November 4 to 7. It covers energy transition, methane and other non-carbon dioxide greenhouse gas emissions, circular economy and resource efficiency, subnational cooperation, the 28th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP28) and more. The COP28 is underway in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, from November 30 to December 12.

According to the statement, the two countries will include all greenhouse gases including methane in their next round of national climate plans. In November, China's Ministry of Ecology and Environment released an action plan to control methane emissions in "key areas" to "actively address global climate change."

The first global stocktake is one of the most important topics at COP28, providing an overall assessment of the progress of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, Zhang continued. It is a vital opportunity for the parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to reflect on ambition, implementation and cooperation, in line with the Paris Agreement's goal of containing global warming well below 2 degrees Celsius and pursuing efforts to limit temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels.

The statement states that China and the U.S. "are aware of the important role they play in terms of both national responses and working together cooperatively to address the goals of the Paris Agreement and promote multilateralism."

"This is the basis of the success of COP28," Zhang said.

China is serious about its climate change efforts and plans to scale up clean energy, Kerry said at the Bloomberg New Economy Forum in Singapore on November 10. He also said he felt hopeful about prospects for a major international climate change conference.

Path for common prosperity

Both China and the United States share close economic ties with other Asia-Pacific economies, and the improvement of their relations injects a strong boost into regional cooperation.

The leaders of the 21 APEC economies jointly reached the 2023 APEC Leaders' Golden Gate Declaration on November 17, which reaffirmed their commitments to enhancing regional economic resilience, sustainability, connectivity, innovation and inclusivity, and to collectively addressing urgent challenges such as the climate crisis.

Speaking at the economic leaders' meeting in San Francisco on November 17, Xi called on APEC members to stay committed to innovation-driven, open, green and inclusive development and work together for another "golden 30 years" of the region.

Earlier, in the written speech delivered at the APEC CEO summit on November 16, Xi pointed out that openness and inclusiveness are the defining feature of Asia-Pacific cooperation. "Development in our region has been achieved not through provoking antagonism and confrontation, pursuing a beggar-thy-neighbor policy, or erecting high fences around a small yard, but by staying open and inclusive and drawing on each other's strengths," Xi said.

According to data from China's Ministry of Commerce, eight out of China's top 10 trading partners are APEC members, and China is the largest trading partner for 13 APEC economies. In 2022, other APEC economies accounted for 86.6 percent of China's total paid-in foreign capital. Among China's top 10 sources of foreign investment, five are APEC members.

"Economies in the region have different histories and cultures and are in different stages of development. Forcing uniformity will not advance cooperation in the region; seeking common ground while shelving differences is the right way forward," Xi said in the speech.

Xi called on regional economies to follow the right norms "to maintain Asia-Pacific prosperity and stability through dialogue and partnership rather than confrontation and alliance. The region cannot and should not be an arena for geopolitical rivalry, still less should it be plunged into a new cold war or camp-based confrontation."

This year, China's economy has been steadily recovering and turning for the better. Its growth rate is among the highest among major economies of the world. And solid gains have been made in its pursuit of high-quality development. China remains the most powerful engine of global growth, and will generate one third of global growth this year. "Just as some leaders of the business community have said, China has become a synonym of the best investment destination, and the 'next China' is still China," Xi concluded.

报道网站:Beijing Review