Double summit meeting in San Francisco – APEC and USA-China

A look at skyscrapers in San Francisco. Source: Pixabay, photo: David Mark, caption: Stefan Pribnow

Berlin, Germany (Weltexpress). On Friday 17 November, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in San Francisco, California, came to an end. This is an international organisation that has set itself the goal of establishing a free trade zone in the Pacific region for mutual economic benefit and to promote prosperity in this region of the world. Almost half of the world’s population lives in the 21 APEC member states.

The special bilateral US-Chinese summit one day before the APEC summit was particularly eagerly awaited. At the request of the Chinese, it was held at a location 40 kilometres south of San Francisco, which was sufficiently far away from the venue of the APEC summit to give it the special diplomatic and symbolic status demanded by the Chinese.

The special US-Chinese summit between Presidents Xi Jinping and Joe Biden had been organised at Washington’s repeated and increasingly urgent insistence. But after the Biden administration’s strong kicks to the Chinese shins in recent years, it was difficult for the US emissaries to convince the Chinese of the sense and purpose of revitalising the almost completely dead relationship with Washington under the current US administration.

President Biden took office promising to repair the relations with China that had already been damaged by his predecessor Donald Trump. But once in power, he and his administration members did everything they could to drive relations with Beijing completely up the wall: from brusque diplomatic rejections to nasty insults from US President Biden, who personally labelled Xi a dictator.

Added to this was the tightening of all possible US sanctions against China, accompanied by confrontational militaristic rhetoric from leading members of the US government. This war rhetoric was in turn coupled with increasing political and military provocations in the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea. All this was strongly supported by the lobbyists of the US defence industry with media support and anti-China agitation. Especially with the new and massive US arms deliveries to Taiwan, the Biden administration has probably already crossed one of Beijing’s red lines.

A completely different US political orientation became clear on the fringes of the APEC meeting in San Francisco. Powerful US business circles, against which even the US defence industry could do little, showed in spectacular fashion that they no longer agree with the Biden regime’s anti-China direction. (More on this below.)

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen’s four-day visit to China at the beginning of July this year is also likely to have come about under pressure from these business circles. During her visit to Beijing, which was completely out of step with the Biden regime’s previous politically confrontational course, Yellen did not miss an opportunity to cosy up to the Chinese. The fact that, since the beginning of this year, the Chinese have begun to sell off US treasuries on an unprecedented scale and, in return, to buy gold and store it in their own country to hedge their global monetary policy ambitions, may also have had something to do with Yellen’s visit.

On her return, Yellen summarised the outcome of her talks in Beijing as follows: The “differences of opinion” remain, but in future both nations wanted to focus more on mutual exchange again.

After Yellen’s opening remarks, high-ranking and middle-ranking members of the US government met one after the other in Beijing. They all had the same desire to get the talks with Beijing back on track after having done so much to stall them in recent years. A meeting between Xi and Biden on the sidelines of the APEC summit was intended to make the rapprochement clearly visible to the whole world and round it off diplomatically.

The US, especially US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who was the last person in Beijing, had to work hard to convince the Chinese that the Biden regime was still fit for business after all, despite all the promises and pledges broken to China in the past, such as the “Five No’s”, which Xi referred to at length in his speech to the assembled APEC presidents in San Francisco.

Xi emphasised that the US must take credible measures

  • to abide by the “one-China principle” (namely that Taiwan is not an independent state but part of the People’s Republic of China),
  • to strictly abide by the provisions of the three joint communiqués between China and the US,
  • to honour the “Five No’s” commitment made by the US leadership (i.e. not to seek a “new Cold War”),
  • not to seek conflict with China,
  • not to try to change China’s system, i.e. not to attempt destabilisation à la colour revolution,
  • do nothing to turn the revitalisation of US alliances in the region against China,
  • do nothing to support the “independence of Taiwan”.

US administrations have committed to these “Five No’s” in bilateral agreements with China over the course of many negotiations in the past decades. After Xi reminded the Biden administration of the commitments it had ignored or broken in front of the assembled presidents and heads of government at the APEC summit, he emphasised his admonitions to Washington to stop “taking the wrong and dangerous path”, as not only the US and China, but the entire global community could not afford the consequences.

At the APEC summit, Xi also pointed out that (systemic) competition between the US and China should not be the dominant trend of today, as it could not solve the problems facing China, the US and the world as a whole. And the Chinese President added that the success of one country is an opportunity for the other. In doing so, he expressed his firm belief in the promising future of China-US relations.

But the APEC summit was not yet over when President Biden once again put his foot in his mouth. At the press conference, he answered the question of whether he still considered Xi to be a dictator in the affirmative and reiterated his earlier statement by again labelling Xi a dictator, which prompted a strong reaction from Beijing. The Chinese leadership’s already lack of trust in agreements with and promises made by US governments has only been reinforced by this.

The mood on the sidelines of the US-China summit was completely different, as representatives of the most powerful US business circles and corporations had organised a festive dinner in Xi’s honour as part of the US-China Business Council, the Chamber of Commerce and the influential political think tank Council for Foreign Relations.

The sponsors also present at the gala dinner included the heads of Apple, BlackRock, Blackstone, Boeing, Broadcom, Citadel, Citi, FedEx, Gilead, Honeywell, KKR, MasterCard, Nike, Pepsi, Pfizer, P&G, Qualcomm, Thermo Fisher and Visa – to name the most important. A screenshot of the complete list of sponsors can be found at the end of the article.

At this point, we are reminded of Kurt Tucholsky and his description of government politicians: “They think they have the power, when in fact they only provide the government.” (For the really powerful.)

The festive dinner that the really powerful in the US gave Xi in San Francisco and the discussions that took place on the sidelines say more about the current state and future of relations between China and the US than Xi’s meeting with Biden and Blinken. Even according to the US media, the latter did nothing significant to improve bilateral relations.

What little improvement there was in US-China relations at the Xi-Biden summit, apart from some aspects related to cultural and academic exchanges, was a military aspect that the Pentagon prioritised, namely the reopening of discussion channels to exchange military concerns in crisis situations. The disastrous behaviour of the Biden administration in recent years had led to these military channels of contact with China being completely frozen.

The respected US magazine National Interest summarised the US-Chinese meeting as follows: “Summit between Joe Biden and Xi Jinping – Nothing achieved?” Despite Washington’s apparent satisfaction with the meeting, there is no sign that the tensions at the heart of the relationship have eased, the magazine says.

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