Biden needs to convince Americans that dialogue with China is in their interests

From: Chatham House
Published: Mon Nov 20 2023


That is not easy when Republicans see electoral advantage in attacking him as ‘soft on China'.

Foreign policy issues seldom win an incumbent US President an election. But they can certainly lose them one, or at the very least feature heavily.

On 15 November President Joe Biden met President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the annual Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit seeking to maintain diplomatic dialogue and prevent further deterioration of the relationship with China - whilst demonstrating his resolve to domestic audiences. It is a perilous balancing act.

It is almost exactly a year since the presidents last met at the G20 in Indonesia, after China had suspended cooperation in retaliation for Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan. Relations were further derailed due to an incident with a Chinese spy balloon transiting the US earlier this year. Several visits to China by US officials were required to get diplomatic engagement back on track.

Although the relationship has shown signs of stabilizing in recent months, the Biden administration went out of its way to tone down expectations of the meeting ahead of time. Outcomes appear minimal and a joint statement was not politically possible considering there is no agreement on key matters including Taiwan, the South China Sea, and US semiconductor policy.

But the stakes are high for President Biden: undertaking such high-profile engagement with President Xi is risky, when his opponents obviously see advantage in attacking his administration as ‘soft on China'.

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Company: Chatham House

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