SINGAPORE: Beijing is ready to hold talks with the United States at “all levels”, Chinese Vice President Han Zheng said on Wednesday, ahead of expected summit in San Francisco between leaders Xi Jinping and Joe Biden as they seek to stabilise tense ties by meeting in-person for just the second time in nearly three years.
The summit on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum follows a six-month US push to engage its geopolitical rival, including through several unreciprocated cabinet-level visits, and recover from a diplomatic crisis over the US downing of an alleged Chinese spy balloon in February.
Speaking at the Bloomberg New Economy Forum in Singapore, Chinese Vice President Han Zheng said the recent high-level meetings between Beijing and Washington were sending “positive signals” that relations were improving.
Biden, Xi likely to steal spotlight at APEC next week
“We’re ready to strengthen communication and dialogue with the United States at all levels, advance mutually beneficial cooperation, properly manage differences and jointly address global challenges,” Han said.
Relations between Washington and Beijing sunk to some of their deepest lows in recent years over a host of issues including export controls, human rights and national security. But both sides appear willing to patch things up, with Washington sending a number of top officials to Beijing this year in a bid to reestablish high-level dialogue.
US President Biden has said he expects to meet Chinese leader Xi on the sidelines of a summit in San Francisco next week for “constructive” talks.
Asked to confirm whether the summit would go ahead, China’s foreign ministry on Wednesday reiterated that the two sides had agreed to meet. “At the same time, the road to San Francisco is not smooth, and we cannot be on autopilot,” ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin told a regular briefing.
“Both sides must… truly implement the consensus reached by the two heads of state, eliminate interference and overcome obstacles, enhance consensus and accumulate results,” he said, alluding to a last year meeting between Xi and Biden in Indonesia.
Han on Wednesday reiterated Xi’s opinion that the question of US-China ties “bears on the future of humanity”.
“The world is big enough for the two countries to develop themselves and prosper together,” he said.
While US officials said there was “agreement in principle” for Xi and Biden to meet in San Francisco, Beijing has yet to confirm Xi will attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), scheduled to be held from Nov 15 to 17.
APEC is a group of 21-member economies that accounts for about 62 per cent of global GDP and almost half of global trade, but it has increasingly become a stage for strategic competition between the US and China.
“This is going to overshadow anything that happens at APEC,” said Oriana Skylar Mastro, a Stanford University China expert.
While Biden administration officials say announcing a slate of meeting outcomes is an outdated way to measure progress in relations with China, experts have pointed to possible signals of improvement such as increasing commercial flights between the countries.
Published in Dawn, November 9th, 2023