As President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping prepare to meet at a summit of Pacific rim nations, the world is watching closely. The relationship between the two leaders has been tense, with disagreements over Taiwan and other issues. Both leaders come to the summit with their own challenges, and both are in need of positive developments.
President Biden is currently facing challenges on multiple fronts, including conflicts in Ukraine and Israel. He may see the summit as an opportunity to stabilize the relationship with China amid the turmoil. Xi, on the other hand, is dealing with a struggling economy and the fallout from his mishandling of the pandemic. The summit could help bolster his leadership credentials.
There are low expectations for the outcome of the meeting, but there is hope for at least some progress. Reopening communication channels and agreeing to future talks would be seen as a success. The leaders may discuss ongoing conflicts and shared challenges like climate change and AI technology. However, advocates for a calmer relationship between the two countries believe that more sustained and high-level attention is needed.
Whether Biden has the political space to improve relations with Xi remains uncertain. Hawkish Republicans may exploit any perceived signs of acquiescence to China, and the American public is increasingly wary of Beijing. Biden has been focused on strengthening partnerships in Asia and lessening dependency on Chinese supply chains. The current geopolitical landscape points to more friction between the two powers.
Surveys of global attitudes towards the United States and China show a clear divide, but also a deeper fracturing. The US is viewed more positively than China in most higher-income nations, but this differs outside the West. In middle-income countries like India, China receives unfavorable views, while in others like Kenya, Mexico, and Nigeria, China is viewed positively.
A survey conducted by the European Council on Foreign Relations reveals a complex geopolitical landscape. While countries outside the West may view the US more favorably in terms of standards of living and values, they are less interested in aligning with Western security and geopolitical projects. This suggests a new “a la carte world” where countries pursue their own pragmatic interests.
Even European countries like Serbia and Hungary, under illiberal leadership, see the benefits of maintaining economic relations with China while also having security ties with the US and enjoying what Europe has to offer.
Overall, the meeting between Xi and Biden is seen as an opportunity to seek stability in a changing global order. Both leaders have much at stake, and while the expectations may be low, any progress made in easing tensions would be welcomed.