APEC summit could shore up U.S.-China ties

2023-11-02 09:44:57China Daily Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download

Potential leaders' meet in San Francisco to consolidate gains from Bali: Expert

A potential meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Joe Biden during the APEC Economic Leaders' Week in San Francisco this month could help shore up bilateral relations, according to a U.S. expert on China.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken last week agreed to work together for a meeting between the two leaders in the California city.

In addition to inviting China to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in San Francisco, the U.S. has sent a separate invitation to China for a summit between the two presidents, a Foreign Ministry official who requested anonymity told China Daily on Saturday.

Sourabh Gupta, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Institute for China-America Studies, told China Daily: "The goal, I think, in San Francisco is to consolidate the path that was laid down in Bali and try to see if some minor agreements can be achieved, which will help to kind of stabilize the relationship further as we go into 2024."

The APEC meeting in San Francisco is scheduled for Nov 11-17.

China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said in a daily briefing on Wednesday that both China and the U.S. agreed to work together for a meeting between the two heads of state in San Francisco.

Both sides need to "return to what was agreed in Bali", act on the common understandings of the two leaders, and overcome obstacles, he said.

Gupta mentioned the visit of a U.S. Senate delegation to China earlier last month, which he said was significant for three reasons.

First, it has been four years since a U.S. congressional delegation's visit to China, before the relationship "completely deteriorated", he said.

Second, the delegation was led by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, so the delegation's seniority was a plus.

Third, it was a bipartisan group of senators — three Republicans and three Democrats.

"It set the tone for a broader engagement of U.S.-China relations, not just at the executive branches, but also with the legislative branch, and therefore created greater space for President Biden to engage President Xi," said Gupta. "This has just enhanced the already high probability" that the two leaders would meet at the APEC summit.

The potential presidential meeting would mark the first encounter between the leaders since the G20 Summit in Bali, Indonesia, in November 2022. Gupta said the Bali summit shifted the path of the U.S.-China relationship.

"Relations were deteriorating, and what Bali did was start beginning the process of trying to set up those guardrails which could stabilize the relationship," he said.

The process was interrupted because of the "balloon" incident and the accompanying politics.

Then the process of "trying to set up those guardrails which could stabilize the relationship", spurred by the Bali summit, gradually restarted, Gupta said. Since then, there have been a series of important senior officials' meetings and visits.

"What San Francisco will do is kind of try to consolidate the gains from Bali and perhaps a few agreements in certain places or deepening of the relationship in certain areas," he said.

On the climate, the 28th UN Climate Change Conference from Nov 30 to Dec 12 will take stock of the 2015 Paris Agreement.

"So, this is an opportunity for the U.S. and China to cooperate in terms of that stocktaking and set the next steps forward on climate change at the multilateral level," Gupta said.

Both China and the U.S. will exchange information on export control in accordance with their laws, according to a statement released after U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo's visit to China in August.

The U.S. administration in mid-October tightened its chip exports and added more Chinese entities to its export control "entity list".

Meanwhile, the China-U.S. economic working group on Oct 24 held its first meeting via video link, in which the two sides agreed to maintain communication.

Gupta said part of the group's purpose is to communicate and not catch each other by surprise rather than to solve problems.

'Forward movement'

That is still a very low threshold in terms of measuring success, but at least it's forward movement that can be consolidated further in San Francisco, he said.

On economic and trade issues that may be discussed and advanced at the potential bilateral summit and APEC meeting, Gupta said, "China has a good story to tell this year", on policy reforms to make the domestic marketplace more transparent and open to international businesses.

"China has actually been making quite a lot of reforms in terms of its business environment back home… in trying to unleash private investment, unleash private entrepreneurs, make the playing field more level for international businesses," he said. "I'm sure that the Chinese side will talk up the fact of the many decisions that they have taken this year to kind of enhance and improve and make the Chinese economy a lot better and more productive to the interest of the U.S. and its international partners."

For the U.S. side, however, Gupta said he is not expecting short-term achievements on bilateral trade, investment and economics. He said the conversation on export controls is ongoing and does not rise to the level of a leaders' discussion.

Meanwhile, the Office of the United States Trade Representative has been taking its time in reviewing the tariffs, he said.

Gupta said that the U.S.-China working groups trying to share information would create some pressure to restrain the U.S. from taking additional economic steps.

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