By Sushil Kutty
US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping met in San Francisco and President Xi told President Biden that Planet Earth was big enough for “both the countries”, the first time a Chinese big shot has referred to China as a country big enough to rival “superpower United States”. If Xi’s self-congratulatory comment has struck as odd or as an affront to the United States, President Biden has taken it in his stride even as the rest of the world, including Putin’s Russia and Modi’s India, must have considered Xi’s statement as long overdue.
The Xi-Biden handshake came on the heels of President Biden telling journalists he still considered Xi “a dictator”, stating that it cannot be anything else because China is China. If a message had been conveyed, the Chinese President’s smiles were only broader. “President Xi the Dictator” suited the Chinese President as it made sure the Chinese back home did not get any bright ideas. Of late, there has been talk that Xi was battling people-perception issues.
Anyway, the face-to-face meetings between the two superpowers helped remove misgivings in the ties, leading to hope that US-China relations will stabilize from here on. President Biden was anxious tensions should “not veer into conflict” and President Xi answered that “turning their back on each other is not an option…”, adding that the US-China relationship was “the most important bilateral relationship in the world… for the two peoples, for the world, and for history”.
With accommodation in his mind and peace in his tone, President Xi made sure Americans got to see a different Xi, and not the “Dictator” that President Biden took him for. For China and the United States, turning their back on each other is not an option, Xi said. “It is unrealistic for one side to remodel the other, and conflict and confrontation has unbearable consequences for both sides.”
The White House termed the meetings “candid and constructive”. Military ties between the countries got a boost with communications between the world’s two most powerful militaries once again restored. Hopefully, from now on, Chinese PLA jets will not fly within kissing range of American fighter jets for tensions to “veer into conflict”. Those questioning President Biden’s cognitive prowess should immediately take a break. Chinese fighter jets often do get too close for comfort.
This was the first time in the past one year that President Xi and President Biden have been face-to-face. They discussed a range of issues, even those that were marked “areas of difference”. The two countries issued a joint statement on climate, but nothing earth-shaking. Planet Earth, which is big enough for two superpowers, will continue to heat. The Biden-Xi meetings were held in the backdrop of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum.
If aliens in some far off galaxies are keeping a watch on happenings on Earth, they would know such meetings keep happening and declaring climate “as one of the greatest challenges of our time” was routine for such superpower summits. Planet Earth is not about to get any respite or relief. President Xi and President Biden vowing to together fight global heating is always par for the course as far as such meetings are concerned.
Besides, there are other more pressing issues where the US and China need to come to an understanding, the most important being Israel’s ‘War on Gaza’, with the everyday mounting death tolls of Palestinian women and Palestinian children giving both Israel and the United States a bad name.
From what we hear, China is on Palestine’s side along with Iran, Turkey and Russia. Perhaps, China and the US will both take a break and take the lead in brokering peace. If any country has leverage with Iran, it is China. Ditto with Turkey. And both Turkey and Iran have appointed themselves interlocutors of Hamas. Hamas listens to them and Turkey and Iran listen to China. At least that is the grapevine. Going forward Xi and Biden’s new bonhomie can be leveraged for the region’s good.
China wouldn’t mind playing world-handler alongside the US. But there’s Taiwan waiting and that is the burning hot issue between the US and China. The future of Taiwan concerns both China and the United States, but while China wants to annex Taiwan, the US wants Taiwan to remain a “free nation” and not China’s vassal. Luckily, for the Xi-Biden summit, both leaders steered clear of turning “Taiwan” into a battlefront in San Francisco, which ensured that the Xi-Biden summit did not “veer into conflict”, much to the relief of both President Biden and President Xi.
The other binding agreement was on controlling the flow of fentanyl from China into the United States. The killer drug is taking a heavy toll in terms of life in the United States and China can make a difference if President Xi takes up the issue seriously. At the end of the day, the Xi-Biden talks have brought both countries closer with President Xi Jinping playing peacemaker, leaving President Joe Biden to be the pacemaker. All in all a fruitful set of meetings, proving President Xi Jinping right that Planet Earth is big enough for two superpowers. (IPA Service)