The virtual meeting between President Xi Jinping and US President Joe Biden on Tuesday will help reduce tensions and open up space for bilateral cooperation between the world’s two largest economies, according to international relations experts.
Carl Bildt, co-chair of the European Council on Foreign Relations, said it looks as if the Biden-Xi meeting has put some “guardrails” on the “responsible competition” between the two countries and even opened up for more cooperation and dialogue on key issues.
“That’s all to be welcomed,” he said in a tweet on Wednesday.
“I guess both US and China are seeking to make their competitive relationship more predictable, opening up also for necessary cooperation in key areas like climate,” the former Swedish prime minister said.
Climate change was a key topic during the virtual meeting. At the COP26 which ended in Glasgow last week, China and the US surprised many by announcing a joint declaration to work together to fight climate change.
Andrey Karneev, head of the School of Asian Studies at the Moscow-based Higher School of Economics, described the meeting as intended “to reduce tensions and agree on regular contacts”.
“There are areas of the relationship where the prospect of finding a common approach is favorable. Such areas include climate change, the fight against coronavirus and ensuring sustainability in the energy sector,” he said.
Harneev expects some progress in trade and economic ties since Biden is facing a difficult economic situation, such as high inflation and a shortage of goods due to supply chain disruptions.
“Apparently it was a very substantial discussion. Otherwise it wouldn’t last for three and half hours,” said Yuri Tavrovsky, head of the Expert Council of the Russian-Chinese Committee for Friendship, Peace and Development.
He called it “a meeting of two equally strong world leaders” and the US president didn’t try to speak from a “position of strength”.
Junichiro Kusumoto, a professor of Toyo University Faculty of Law in Japan, said “Frictions between China and the United States are not irrelevant to Japan and I just hope everything will be resolved peacefully.”
Kusumoto added the US-China relationship will have a significant impact on the geopolitical situation in East Asia.
Kinji Matsuo, a philosopher and author in Japan, said the world is concerned about how China and US will deal with their differences.
“It is like two surgeons treating one wound at the same time. Will they cooperate well or do they need a third person to help? We are looking forward to the answers,” Matsuo said.
“It is always a step forward when leaders meet and talk, even if it is virtually, as the two presidents have done,” said Gayle Allard, a professor of IE University, noting the US-China relationship is in its worst situation since the 1970s.
“The conversation between the two presidents was, in short, necessary, fruitful and continuous,” said Felix Valdivieso, chair of IE China Center.
He added this is perhaps the result of the two presidents knowing each other well and maintaining a good relationship from the time they were vice-presidents.
Sergey Biryukov, a professor at the Siberian Institute of Management in Novosibirsk, described the virtual meeting as a “frank conversation”.
“Two countries’ leaders agreed to compete in global policy according to certain rules. It may have positive consequences for world policy,” he said.
Biryukov expects the current tension over the Taiwan Straits to ease somewhat, because both sides do not want escalation.
David Shullman, senior director of the Atlantic Council’s Global China Hub, said the virtual meeting is “critical to minimizing misperception and the risk of unintended conflict”.
“Just the image alone of the two leaders engaging in dialogue could help ease concerns that ‘they’re heading into dangerous territory’, particularly with the rising risk of military conflict over Taiwan,” he said in a post on the council’s website.
Ashley Feng, a non-resident fellow also at the Global China Hub, noted concrete matters were also on the table.
“Both sides mentioned the possibility of cooperation on issues like health security, climate change, global energy supplies, and regional security issues such as North Korea, Afghanistan and Iran,” she said, adding a fast-track entry process for US business executives arriving in China has also been hashed out.
Dennis Munene, executive director of the China-Africa Center at the Africa Policy Institute, said by popularizing the idea of an “ecological civilization” as a pathway to sustainable global peace and progress, Xi advocated for new China-US cooperation on a green and low-carbon economy.