Biden and Xi Secure Key Agreements on Military Communications, Fentanyl

President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping concluded productive talks in California, reaching significant agreements on fentanyl production reduction and military communication, while addressing complex issues like Taiwan and technology export restrictions, signaling a positive shift in U.S.-China relations.

Nov 17, 2023 - 08:10
Nov 17, 2023 - 08:11
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Biden and Xi Secure Key Agreements on Military Communications, Fentanyl
President Joe Biden meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Bali, Indonesia on November 14, 2022. | Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

President Joe Biden recently concluded productive discussions with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, in Woodside, California signaling a positive shift in the strained relations between the U.S. and China. The talks, lasting four hours, resulted in significant agreements concerning the reduction of fentanyl production and the reinstatement of military communications. Biden, while acknowledging ongoing tensions, expressed satisfaction with the outcomes and emphasized the importance of direct communication, especially during disagreements.

Biden, maintaining a firm stance, described Xi as a dictator, notwithstanding the diplomatic progress achieved. "Well, look, he is. I mean, he’s a dictator in the sense that he is a guy who runs a country that is a communist country," Biden reportedly said. In response to this characterization, Xi called Biden "irresponsible." Key outcomes of the summit included commitments from China to target producers of precursor chemicals for fentanyl, a major factor in the U.S. drug crisis. Biden emphasized the life-saving potential of this agreement and expressed gratitude for Xi's commitment.

On military matters, both leaders agreed to implement mechanisms to prevent military misunderstandings, with Biden highlighting the vital role of open channels in averting conflicts. The U.S. administration, led by Secretary of State Antony Blinken and others, had persistently pushed for the restoration of military-to-military communications, a need underscored by incidents such as the Chinese spy balloon episode.

Despite a historically cordial personal relationship, Biden and Xi preside over a period of heightened tension in U.S.-China relations. The California summit featured direct exchanges on various topics, including Taiwan, with both leaders presenting their positions clearly. Xi emphasized China's preference for peaceful reunification with Taiwan, laying out conditions for the use of force, while Biden reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to peace and stability in the region.

In addition to Taiwan, the leaders discussed global issues like the Israel-Hamas conflict, with Biden urging China to leverage its influence with Iran. In a televised press conference following his meeting with Xi, Biden reporedly said Israel’s operation in Gaza, following Hamas's targeted massacres in southern Israeli communities last month,"“will end when Hamas no longer maintains the capacity to murder, abuse, and do horrific things to the Israelis." Biden reportedly added that Israel’s military has "an obligation to use as much caution as they can in going after their targets. Hamas said they plan to attack Israelis again and this is a terrible dilemma."

The talks also covered technology export restrictions, with Xi criticizing U.S. policies as "technological containment" and Biden clarifying the U.S. stance on not aiding China's military capabilities.

The meeting, meticulously planned, aimed at preventing additional global crises and fostering a more cooperative U.S.-China relationship. Both leaders acknowledged the complexities of their countries' relationship and the impossibility of either nation turning its back on the other. They agreed that competition should not escalate into conflict, emphasizing the need for mutual understanding and cooperation on global challenges like climate change, drug trafficking, and artificial intelligence.

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