The Biden-Xi meeting left one big question unanswered, says analyst

The flag of the United States and China stands behind a microphone at the US Embassy in Beijing on April 9, 2009.

Frederick J. Brown | AFP | Getty Images

One analyst said the US and China, just emerging from a high-level meeting between their leaders, set a positive tone about moving their relationship forward – but one big question remains unanswered.

“The question for the broader relationship is whether the United States and China can deal constructively with the slow clash now unfolding between their very different views of the world,” Stephen Olson, chief researcher at the Hinrich Foundation, said in a note Tuesday after the hypothetical presentation. summit.

Olson said the US and China still face deeply rooted “highly decisive and irreconcilable differences” – and it remains to be seen whether the fallout between them eases after the meeting between US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“Neither country will disappear,” he said. “Neither country will accept the other’s point of view. The wise path forward would be to find reasonable ways for each side’s divergent narratives to coexist.”

The strict, irreconcilable differences are implicit in each side’s view of the other. This cannot be discarded.

Stephen Olson

Senior Research Fellow, Heinrich Stiftung

Olson explained that China views the United States as a declining power at a time when Beijing appears more confident on the world stage. He added that the United States considers the circumstances surrounding China’s rise to be contrary to its own interests, and should be prepared to “confront and challenge China more forcefully.”

“Difficult and irreconcilable differences are integral to each side’s vision of the other,” Olson said. “These differences cannot be eliminated.”

And Biden seemed to accept the challenge, too. He said there was “a need for logical buffers to ensure competition does not turn into conflict and to keep lines of communication open,” according to White House readings after his meeting with Xi.

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Meanwhile, during the meeting, Xi said that for China and the United States to usher in a “new era”, they should adhere The principles of mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation, according to the official statement in English in China.

Beijing usually uses language such as “mutual respect” to advocate more favorable terms than the United States

‘Things can only get better’

The virtual meeting between Biden and Xi was the closest contact between the two leaders since Biden took office in January.

Relations between the United States and China have been strained in the past few years, with the two sides clashing on issues ranging from policies on trade, technology, human rights and the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Observers said the Biden-Xi meeting produced little tangible results, but it was still an important step in stabilizing relations between the two countries.

“It’s good that the two leaders met. From here, things can get better,” Gary Locke, former US Secretary of Commerce and US ambassador to China, told CNBC’s Squawk Boxes on Wednesday.

“The two countries need each other, and the world needs the two countries to cooperate and work together to solve many issues,” said Locke, now interim president of Bellevue College.

CNBC’s Evelyn Cheng contributed to this report.

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