China seeks Biden-Xi meeting next month if Alaska talks go well

The Biden-Xi meeting as envisioned by Chinese officials would be organised around Earth Day on April 22.
The Biden-Xi meeting as envisioned by Chinese officials would be organised around Earth Day on April 22.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) - Beijing is seeking a meeting between Mr Joe Biden and Mr Xi Jinping next month if the first high-level United States-China talks in Alaska starting Thursday (March 18) are productive, according to people familiar with the situation.

The Biden-Xi meeting, as envisioned by Chinese officials, would be organised around Earth Day on April 22 to show that both leaders are focused on combating climate change, a source said.

Mr Biden is already set to gather global leaders together on that day to push the world for greater ambition in curbing greenhouse gas emissions. The prospect of the meeting was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

Both the US and China have played down expectations for the talks in Alaska, which are set to run on Thursday and Friday local time.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan will represent the US, while Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Politburo member Yang Jiechi will speak for China.

China's expectations for the meeting aren't "too high", Mr Cui Tiankai, China's Ambassador to the US, said in comments reported by state-run China Central Television. It will be a success if it starts a "honest, constructive and rational" dialogue, he added.

Both countries have sparred over how to describe the talks, with the US disputing China's characterisation of the meeting as a "high-level strategic dialogue".

Mr Blinken on Wednesday said it will be an opportunity "to very directly, face to face, share with our Chinese counterparts the concerns that the United States has, that our allies and partners have about some of the things that China is doing".

China has urged the Biden administration to remove tariffs and sanctions imposed during Mr Donald Trump's presidency, as well as measures to restrict sales of key technology to Chinese companies.

The Foreign Ministry in Beijing last week said the US "isn't a reliable country that is to be trusted" after administration officials tightened restrictions on Huawei Technologies.

China announced trials would start on Friday for two Canadians accused of violating national security laws who were taken in shortly after the December 2018 arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, the daughter of company founder Ren Zhengfei.

China has often linked the cases to Ms Meng's, with a Foreign Ministry spokesman telling reporters last year that halting the extradition "could open up space for resolution to the situation of the two Canadians".

The US and China have sparred over issues such as Hong Kong, Taiwan and Xinjiang in calls since Mr Biden took office, which Beijing has insisted are "internal" issues. But US officials have also sought to stress areas of potential cooperation, including on climate change and nuclear non-proliferation.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Tuesday that the Alaska meeting was not meant to establish expectations for regular encounters between the two sides.

"I wouldn't see this as one in a series," she said. "This is a meeting that our national security adviser and secretary of state are attending, and I wouldn't build it out beyond there at this point in time."