Biden and Xi met at the APEC Summit – here’s what happened

US President Biden and China’s President Xi met on the sidelines of the APEC Summit to discuss crucial global matters.

Biden and Xi met at the APEC Summit – here’s what happened
U.S. President Joe Biden gives thumbs-up as he walks with Chinese President Xi Jinping at Filoli estate on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, in Woodside, California, U.S., November 15, 2023. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

The backstory: Over the past year, tensions between China and the US have steadily risen due to a series of issues. For one, the US put curbs on tech exports to Chinese companies. At the same time, China started digging into the US chip company Micron, and the nation put export curbs on materials for making electronics, like germanium and gallium. There were also political conflicts and trade problems between the two. Adding a fresh layer of complexity to the relationship is the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict, and the US is looking to Beijing to use its influence with Iran to prevent an escalation into a broader Middle East war.

More recently: In August, the US and China took big steps in their diplomatic relations. Premier Li Qiang's meeting with the US-China Business Council highlighted China's commitment to fair business practices. Meanwhile, US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo's visit to Beijing underscored mutual efforts to improve economic cooperation, especially in export controls.

Last month, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi's historic visit to Washington marked the first by a Chinese foreign minister on US soil since 2018. This diplomatic milestone involved extensive discussions, including meetings with high-profile figures like US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and US President Joe Biden.

The development: Biden and China’s President Xi Jinping met in San Francisco this Wednesday on the sidelines of the APEC Summit to discuss crucial global matters. Their last meet-up was at the G20 conference in Bali, Indonesia, almost a year ago. 

Key takeaways from their talks include Xi's commitment to address the export of materials used to make fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is contributing to a crisis in the US. Both leaders also agreed to restart military talks, and soon Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will be talking with his Chinese counterpart. They also both agreed to high-level and direct communications to keep their dialogue open and productive. 

In their private talk, Biden asked Xi to use his influence to calm down tensions globally, especially with Iran's role in the Israel-Hamas conflict. Biden also asked Xi to keep away from supporting Russia's invasion of Ukraine. 

On a possible show of warmer feelings between the two nations, President Xi hinted that China would send pandas back to the US, saying that he wanted to “deepen the friendly ties between our two peoples.” Xi also addressed the Summit, saying China was ready to become a “partner and a friend” to the US. 

Key comments:

"We're back to direct, open, clear communications," said US President Joe Biden. 

“US actions against China regarding export control, investment screening and unilateral sanctions seriously hurt China’s legitimate interests,” Chinese President Xi Jinping reportedly said. “Suppressing China’s science and technology is curbing China’s high-quality development and depriving the Chinese people of their right to development.”

“We haven’t always agreed, which was not a surprise to anyone, but our meetings have always been candid, straightforward and useful,” said Biden. He also added that “it’s paramount that you and I understand each other clearly, leader to leader, with no misconceptions or miscommunication.”

“For two large countries like China and the United States, turning their back on each other is not an option,” said Xi.