US President Joe Biden greets Chinese President Xi Jinping on November 15, 2023. LEHTIKUVA / AFP

International news

In a historic rendezvous, President Joe Biden of the United States and Chinese President Xi Jinpingconvened in the serene setting of Filoli, an estate in Woodside, California. This meeting, only their second face-to-face encounter in three years, marked a crucial attempt to mend frayed ties between two global superpowers. The two leaders embarked on discussions encompassing a range of pressing issues — the ongoing conflicts in Gaza and Ukraine, challenges in international trade, the delicate situation in Taiwan, and the need to restore military communication channels. 

  The Filoli Summit: A Blend of History and Diplomacy

The choice of Filoli, with its lush English Renaissance gardens, stood in stark contrast to the urban backdrop of nearby San Francisco. The estate, originally a private residence in 1917, transitioned to a public landmark in 1975, symbolizing a bridge between the past and present. This setting provided a serene backdrop for discussions on pressing global issues.

In the backdrop of the historic Filoli estate, Presidents Joe Biden and Xi Jinping engaged in a crucial summit, addressing the recent downturn in US-China relations. The bilateral ties had soured significantly, with the U.S. accusing China of deploying a spy balloon in its airspace earlier in the year, and China ceasing military communications following U.S. politician Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan. These incidents had amplified tensions, making this meeting not just necessary but critical for global diplomacy.

President Biden, emphasizing the need for clear and honest dialogue, asserted the importance of mutual understanding between the two leaders. He stressed that while the U.S. and China are competitors, this should not escalate into conflict. Reflecting on their past meetings, Biden highlighted their effectiveness, stating, "I've always found our discussions straightforward and frank." He acknowledged the responsibility they both held in addressing global challenges like climate change and the development of artificial intelligence. 

These moments at Filoli, far removed from the urban bustle of San Francisco, were emblematic of a diplomatic effort to bridge gaps and soften the edges of international politics. The meeting at this estate, with its roots deeply embedded in history and preservation, served as a metaphor for the leaders' attempt to preserve and rejuvenate a strained but crucial bilateral relationship.


 Revisiting a Long-standing Relationship

The opening remarks by both leaders underscored their long-standing relationship, dating back to their vice-presidential days. Biden emphasized the candid and useful nature of their interactions, despite not always agreeing. Xi reminisced about their past, highlighting the significance of their journey to their current roles as presidents.

Earlier this week, during a series of meetings between Chinese Vice Premier He Lifeng and U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, both China and the U.S. emphasized their intention to avoid decoupling, focusing instead on strengthening their economic and trade relationship. These discussions, which occurred from November 8 to 12, addressed concerns over U.S. sanctions against Chinese enterprises, investment restrictions, export controls, and tariffs. The two sides reached a consensus to enhance communication, manage differences, and prevent accidental escalations in friction. They also agreed on the regular direct communication between Lifeng and Yellen and welcomed the formation of China-U.S. economic and financial working groups.

Both parties acknowledged the importance of a healthy economic relationship that benefits businesses, workers, and citizens in both nations. They committed to collaborating on challenges like economic growth, financial stability, climate change, and the debt issues of developing economies. Moreover, they agreed to reinforce the international financial structure, including supporting reforms in the International Monetary Fund and multilateral development banks. Chinese Vice Finance Minister Liao Min underscored the need for equality, mutual respect, and addressing each other's concerns for a stable and far-reaching economic partnership. He differentiated between market-driven diversification and "de-risking" under national security, warning against the latter's adverse economic impacts. Liao expressed hope for mutually beneficial actions to foster and maintain strong bilateral economic ties.

 Keeping Global Ties on Track 

The engagement between the U.S. and China is pivotal for the global economy and international stability. The recent increase in high-level interactions and cooperative initiatives indicated a positive trend towards stabilizing bilateral relations. People-to-people exchanges and mutual cooperation stood as the bedrock of this renewed diplomatic effort.


 Facilitating Regional Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific 

Xi's advocacy for an Asia-Pacific community with a shared future and his promotion of projects like the Belt and Road Initiative highlighted China's commitment to regional development. Projects like the Jakarta-Bandung High-Speed Railway and the China-Laos Railway demonstrated the tangible benefits of this cooperation. 

A recent global online poll conducted by CGTN showed that as many as 86% of global netizens believe that maintaining the healthy and stable development of China-US relations cannot just be rhetoric. The key is to take practical actions to implement the agreements reached by the leaders of the two countries during their meeting in Bali. 91.2% of netizens believe that if China-US relations want to develop well, they must be based on mutual respect and equal treatment, and respect each other's core interests and major concerns. At the same time, 92% of the respondents believe that China-US relations are not a zero-sum game. Any idea of trying to transform and contain the other side is unrealistic. The development of either side should not deprive the other side of its legitimate rights. 

The Xi-Biden meeting in the tranquil setting of Filoli was more than a diplomatic engagement; it was a symbol of potential reconciliation and a testament to the enduring nature of international relations. Amidst global challenges, this summit underscored the importance of dialogue and cooperation, not just for the two nations but for the world at large.