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U.S. Manages Expectations of a Breakthrough Before Biden and Xi Meet

Biden and Xi Meet

As President Biden prepares to meet with President Xi Jinping on Wednesday, the focus shifts not only to substantive agreements but also to the highly choreographed diplomatic dance aimed at defusing a year of tensions. From ceremonial details to the number of steps in a room, every aspect has been carefully planned. However, expectations for significant agreements are minimal.

The only concrete agreement hinted at is the resumption of military-to-military communications, suspended by China after Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan in 2022. Discussions also involve a potential commitment to keeping artificial intelligence software out of nuclear command and control systems.

Unlike past U.S.-China summits that resulted in substantial agreements, this meeting’s expectations are notably low. There’s no plan for a joint statement; each government will provide its own account. The relationship is now about “managing competition responsibly” through intense diplomacy, according to Jake Sullivan, the president’s national security adviser.

China seeks assurances that the U.S. “does not seek a new Cold War,” while U.S. officials aim to manage the relationship without containment or a set “floor.” Both leaders will discuss concerns over Taiwan, China’s economic slowdown, and issues like technology shipments to Russia and nuclear arsenals.

As the summit unfolds, the dynamics between Biden and Xi will be closely watched, with geopolitical issues and the Indo-Pacific region taking center stage. The meeting reflects a changed landscape, contrasting with past summits that yielded substantial agreements. The outcome may set the tone for future U.S.-China relations.