U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping’s meeting on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit marks the first time the two leaders will sit down together since a sideline meeting at the G-20 Summit in Indonesia in November 2022. While there was an initial boost in the bilateral relationship after that meeting, things quickly reverted back to the new normal of sour relations and recriminations over perceived wrongdoings in both capitals.
In recent months, the Biden administration has pressed for more high-level diplomatic efforts to improve dialogue and even perhaps to make headway on issues of real concern. For the U.S., this includes China’s role in the fentanyl supply chain; for China, it’s a chance to press the U.S. to moderate its growing public support for Taiwan.
For the first time in a very long while, however, the U.S. side is entering the meeting from a position of relative economic strength and even perhaps confidence compared to China, given the U.S. economy’s robust growth as well as government policies that have turbocharged investment into the Midwestern U.S. states that had become renowned for deindustrialization. By contrast, Xi comes to the U.S. with Chinese economic growth at its lowest point in 40 years, a real estate industry in crisis and a local government debt problem of epic proportions.