Meetings like Biden-Xi summit may be only way forward for U.S. and China, former Obama advisor says

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  • US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping could hold a virtual summit by the end of this year, sources told CNBC’s Kayla Tauche.
  • Such top-level talks could help resolve the most contentious issues at the heart of US-China competition, said Ivan Medeiros, President Barack Obama’s top adviser on Asia-Pacific.
  • Scott Kennedy of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington DC-based think tank, said it signals a “limited thaw” in bilateral relations.
  • President Kennedy, senior advisor and trustee in Chinese business and economics at CSIS, said Taiwan will “definitely” come back again when Biden and Xi hold their virtual meeting.

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A former White House official said Thursday that a summit between US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping could be the only way forward in the strategic competition between the world’s top two economies.

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Ivan Medeiros, former President Barack Obama’s top adviser on the Asia-Pacific, said only top leadership in Beijing can help resolve the most contentious issues at the heart of the US-China contest.

“There is really no other approach at this time that has a greater chance of working the way the Chinese system is structured, because of how powerful Xi Jinping is, because of centralized decision-making,” said Medeiros, now George. A professor of Asian studies at Towne University told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia.”

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“I think the Biden administration is not right to say that they want to cut out the middlemen, but they want to use that top-level engagement between Biden and Xi to set the overall tone and direction of the relationship, ” he added. .

White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and top Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi held high-level talks on Wednesday in Zurich, Switzerland. It was their first personal encounter since the March meeting in Alaska, which began with an unusual public outpouring of grievances from both sides.

During talks in Zurich, the two sides reached an “in principle agreement” to hold a virtual meeting between Biden and Xi, sources told CNBC’s Kayla Tauchey on Wednesday.

Relations between the US and China have been rocky over the years. The two sides have clashed on issues ranging from trade and technology to human rights and the origins of COVID-19.

It would be great if some positive things came out of it, but it doesn’t have to be a major thaw of the relationship.
Scott Kennedy
Center for Strategic and International Studies

But even as communication between the two countries improves, the bilateral tensions are not heading towards a “grand thaw”, analysts say.

Scott Kennedy of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington DC-based think tank, said the anticipated Biden-Xi virtual summit signals a “limited thaw” in bilateral relations. But it will help stabilize US-China competition and avoid accidents, he said.

Kennedy, senior advisor and trustee chair in Chinese business and economics at CSIS, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia,” that “it would be great if some positive things came out of it, but it’s not a big thaw of the relationship.” ” “

tensions on taiwan

Among the issues discussed at the Zurich meeting between Sullivan and Yang included China’s actions in relation to Taiwan, According to a statement from the White House.

And Taiwan will “definitely” come again when Biden and Xi hold their virtual meeting, Kennedy said. The meeting is expected to take place before the end of this year.

Taiwan has reported several instances of Chinese warplanes breaching its air defense sector in recent days. The island said 148 Chinese Air Force planes have crossed the southern and southwestern part of the region in four days since Friday – when China celebrated its national day.

It prompted the US State Department to urge Beijing to “stop its military, diplomatic and economic pressure and coercion against Taiwan”.

The ruling Communist Party of China in Beijing claims Taiwan, a democratic self-governing island, as a runaway province that should one day be reunited with the mainland – by force if necessary. The party has never controlled Taiwan, but has recently been more vocal in its territorial claim.

The US has no official diplomatic relations with Taiwan, but is the island’s most important international supporter and arms supplier. This has angered China, which considers the US to be meddling in its “domestic” affairs.

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Medeiros, a former Obama adviser, said Taiwan is a “very, very challenging” issue for the US and China to resolve.

“Building railways, setting boundaries starts with clear, consistent and credible communication from the top of the US government to the top of the Chinese government so they understand how we are interpreting these massive strike packages on Taiwan, how they A response can illegalize the United States,” he said.

“Similarly, we need to better understand how Beijing is viewing our actions. I think there is a common misconception in Beijing that the US is trying to move beyond a ‘one China’ policy and that prompting some of their more aggressive activities.”

The “One China” policy refers to the concept that there is only one central Chinese government – ​​one under the Communist Party of China in Beijing.

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