Joe Biden and Xi Jinping are expected to hold frank talks about Taiwan when the US and Chinese presidents meet in San Francisco on Wednesday in a renewed effort to stabilise relations between the two powers.
One year after their first meeting as leaders — at the G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia — Biden and Xi will resurrect attempts to halt the steep deterioration in ties, which are in their worst state in four decades. Their effort a year ago was derailed when a suspected Chinese spy balloon flew over the US in February.
In recent months, the sides have resumed top-level engagement, including a visit by secretary of state Antony Blinken to Beijing and a reciprocal trip to Washington by foreign minister Wang Yi.
Washington has welcomed the engagement, but US officials stressed that the summit would not produce big agreements, particularly as tensions remain high over Taiwan, which holds a presidential election in January.
“We’re not talking about a long list of outcomes,” said one US official. “The goals here really are about managing the competition, preventing the downside risk of conflict and ensuring channels of communication are open.”
The official said the combination of Taiwanese and US elections next year meant 2024 could be “bumpy” for US-China relations, reinforcing the need for top-level communication.
They added that Biden would reaffirm the “one China” policy — in which the US recognises Beijing as the sole government of China but only acknowledges its assertion of sovereignty over Taiwan — while making clear to Xi that Chinese political interference in Taiwan’s election “would raise extremely strong concerns”.
Rick Waters, who until August was the US state department’s top China official, said both leaders wanted to prevent a further slide in relations “at the lowest possible cost”.
“The question is how