China remains uncommitted to Xi Jinping’s attendance at Apec summit as tensions persist

Beijing and Washington are still working on a diplomatic compromise that could open a pathway to Chinese President Xi Jinping attending the Apec summit in San Francisco – but first they must find their way past differences on key issues.

The prospective meeting between Xi and US President Joe Biden during the Apec summit in November had been high on the agenda in talks between Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and US national security adviser Jake Sullivan in Malta earlier this month, sources said.

The two had “candid, substantive and constructive” talks for more than 12 hours over two days that ended on September 17, according to readouts from both sides after the meeting.


‘China will not challenge or replace the US’, Xi tells Blinken at crucial meeting

‘China will not challenge or replace the US’, Xi tells Blinken at crucial meeting

But a decision was yet to be made as China could not obtain certain US commitments leading up to the Apec meeting, according to sources. Beijing has deemed US actions over Taiwan and the shooting down of a suspected surveillance balloon as provocative, and has demanded the US avoid such acts before the summit, sources told the Post.

Those guarantees were not possible because the US legislative branches – the House of Representatives and the Senate – are beyond the control of the Biden administration, which would have to manage increasingly hawkish domestic sentiments towards China, especially as a presidential election approaches, sources said.

Shaky relations between the world’s two leading powers have begun to stabilise after a turbulent year of tensions over issues ranging from export controls on advanced chips to the saga over a suspected spy balloon.

Four senior officials from the Biden administration have visited China this year, but a potential meeting between the two leaders was thrown into more uncertainty after Xi skipped a recent gathering of world leaders in India.

In his first public remarks about the issue on Tuesday, Wang said Beijing was “communicating with all parties” on Xi’s attendance at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.

China will “announce formally in due course”, he said.

However, while China was willing to meet “international expectations to play a constructive role in the success of Apec this year”, Wang said Beijing expected Washington to “realise the responsibility of a host”.

The US should demonstrate “openness, fairness, inclusivity and responsibility to create better conditions for a successful summit”, Wang said.

But according to the sources, Washington was also reluctant to make such commitments since Beijing had not reciprocated in re-engagement with the US, even after four US cabinet-level officials were dispatched to China for talks.

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, climate envoy John Kerry, and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo have visited China over the summer. The last senior Chinese official to travel to Washington was Commerce Minister Wang Wentao, who visited in late May.

The two countries have resumed talks in areas like arms control and artificial intelligence, the Post reported earlier.


US climate envoy John Kerry meets China’s top diplomat Wang Yi in latest bid to repair frayed ties

US climate envoy John Kerry meets China’s top diplomat Wang Yi in latest bid to repair frayed ties

But furthering such cooperation requires top-level approval, sources said.

Xi’s absence from the Group of 20 summit in New Delhi, while Vice-President Han Zheng, who attends symbolic functions, was sent to the UN General Assembly in New York instead of the foreign minister, has made sideline meetings between the two presidents increasingly uncertain. The G20 summit was attended by Premier Li Qiang.

“China is a responsible country and is never absent at a multilateral forum that it is part of,” Wang said to reporters on Tuesday.

Antony Blinken meets Chinese Vice-President Han Zheng on UN sidelines

Wang’s public remarks came more than a week after talks with Sullivan, when the two also discussed issues that included China’s grievances over Taiwan and US complaints over China’s position on the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Earlier this month, China’s top spy agency, the Ministry of State Security, cast doubt over Xi’s attendance at the Apec summit in a social media post that called on the US to “show real sincerity”.

The ministry said that despite positive signals from senior US officials during recent China visits, Washington’s new approach was to “compete” with Beijing and accused the US of being “two-faced” in its China policy.

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