The White House announced on Friday that President Joe Biden will meet Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in San Francisco on Wednesday, confirming the long anticipated upcoming meeting between the two world leaders.
President Biden and President Xi last met face to face at a G20 meeting in Bali, Indonesia last November. Since then, tensions have remained high between the two countries, especially following a June incident in which Biden called President Xi a “dictator” and an incident in February when a Chinese spy balloon moved across Canada and the United States before being blown up by an F-22 off the coast of South Carolina. There are also continuing issues, such as concerns of of agreements between Russia, China, and North Korea in the past year, wars in Ukraine and the Gaza Strip, and the escalation of military exercises nearby Taiwan. There have also been more benign flare ups, such as the recent decision by China to end the Panda bear diplomacy program with the U.S.
Last month, the White House previously announced that the two leaders would likely be meeting at the Summit, but gave no more details beyond that. Shortly before that announcement, Governor Gavin Newsom had met with President Xi while on a Chinese trip, where the upcoming summit was discussed. With Newsom, a rumored 2024/2028 presidential election rival to both President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, meeting Xi over economic and other issues, the White House acted fast to put focus on Biden meeting with Xi instead.
This all led to Friday’s meeting date announcement. According to White House officials, Biden and Xi are to meet on Wednesday, November 15th during the Summit. They are set to discuss, amongst other things, the Israel-Hamas war, the Taiwan situation, human rights, fentanyl, artificial intelligence, the war in Ukraine and possible election interference by China.
“Nothing will be held back; everything is on the table,” said a White House official on Friday. “We’re clear-eyed about this. We know efforts to shape or reform China over several decades have failed. But we expect China to be around and to be a major player on the world stage for the rest of our lifetimes. Biden is looking toward “managing the competition, preventing the downside risk of conflict and ensuring channels of communication are open.”
Biden, Xi meeting to turn international eyes on San Francisco
Also likely to draw attention is San Francisco itself. Police officials have recently warned about major protests in the city over China and the summit similar to recent protests in the city over the Israel-Hamas war that brought out thousands to flood city streets and temporarily close some bridges. There have also been concerns with the image of the city. While cleanup efforts have been taking place, there are still many nearby areas lined with trash, tents, and graffiti. Traffic has also been piling up in the city over a week early as APEC set up efforts, cleanup, and security closures have already made commuting a nightmare for locals.
“San Francisco was the wrong American city to meet in for these two leaders,” Jacob Callum, a large events planner who helps assist in setting up major conferences and summits, told the Globe. “Going down the list here, it’s good that a date is set. They probably have a location in mind too, but for security reasons, are not saying where it is going to be and likely won’t until the last minute. Big events with security sensitive people, yeah, you don’t give a lot of advance notice for things like that.”
“But APEC being in San Francisco, wow. I mean, look at all the work going into it right now. They’ve been planning for a year, and here we are still making the streets look clean. Every place does this for an event, because you don’t want to disrupt the locals too much, but usually by now you have a good percentage ready. San Francisco has had so much wrong with it that it is still taking time.”
“The thing is though, you want to show off your country during a big international event, and the U.S. went with San Francisco. It is a pretty city and, aesthetically, amazing. There’s a reason why tourists flock here. But right now, a lot of the city is run down. It just isn’t as impressive as it used to be. But, they stayed with it.”
“There’s a lot riding on this meeting, and location does play a factor. Visiting dignitaries can easily point to things outside in the city as plusses or minuses. And in San Francisco, you don’t have to go very deep before you find trouble spots, or at the very least mention all the articles about extensive cleanup around the area as window dressing. It happens for every large event, but it is especially noticeable in San Francisco. Xi can easily make some jabs about the city to Biden, and a lot of the American reps there are going to hear about some of San Francisco’s shortcomings even after all the work into making it presentable. Although, with all the fentanyl problems in the city, the Americans do have a pretty good comeback to the Chinese on their production of it.”
“For any event, and I’ve seen it, the question that always disarms the hosts is “What did you do with all the homeless people here?” Even if there is a canned response, they always cringe at that. And for San Francisco, that’s a big one.”
The APEC Summit is set to begin on Saturday November 11th and run until November 17th.
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