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Explained: What's On Agenda Of Joe Biden-Xi Jinping Meeting, What's At Stake For Biden Ahead Of Polls?

US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping are expected to discuss a range of issues, such as the ongoing wars in Ukraine and the Middle East along with the US-China relationship that has been tense lately over aggressive Chinese military posturing and trade issues.

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Joe Biden,Xi Jinping
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US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping are expected to meet on Wednesday on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Conference on Wednesday at San Francisco. 

This will be the first meetings of the two leaders since the G-20 Summit in Indonesia last year where the two leaders met on the sidelines. The two are expected to discuss a host of bilateral and international issues, ranging to the wars in Ukraine and the Middle East, the Taiwan dispute, and US-China bilateral tensions. 

The US restrictions on the Chinese use of critical American technology and the aggressive military posturing by China along with increased espionage activities, such as the spy balloon episode earlier this year, have made the US-China relationship tense. While the United States has been ramping up efforts and building coalitions to contain the aggressive China, it maintains that its objective is to compete but not have a confrontation. The Biden administration is also keen to keep channels of communications open between the two sides. 

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Here is what we know about the agenda of the Biden-Xi meeting and what we can expect from the meeting. 

What's on the agenda of Biden-Xi meeting?

The stabilisation of US-China ties amid rising tensions and disruptive world events, like the Ukraine and Middle East wars, is the primary agenda of the meeting between US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Two senior advisors of Biden briefed media that Biden is prepared to bring up issues including Taiwan, election interference, Ukraine War, and the Israel-Hamas War in the discussions, according to The New York Times, which added that Biden would also present clarity on the US expectations regarding Taiwan. The self-ruling island of Taiwan produces the vast majority of advanced semiconductors and is concerned over Chinese ambitions to merge it with the country as Beijing considers Taiwan to be a breakaway province. Xi has not ruled out the use of force for such a merger. 

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The Biden-Xi meeting comes after a series of high-level visits, which saw top US officials like Secretary of State Antony Blinken, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, Treasury Secretary Jennet Yellen, and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo meeting their Chinese counterparts in and outside China. The Times noted that strains in the ties will be addressed but these visits have been make it clear to Beijing that while the United States wants to protect national security, it does not seek to sever economic ties.

The conversations over the Israel-Hamas War would also be keenly watched as China has a warm relationship with Iran, the principal backer of Hamas and archenemy of Israel which backs anti-Israel groups like Hamas and Hezbollah.

"Aside from issues of trade and competition, Mr. Biden is expected to broach the war in Gaza with Mr. Xi, officials said on Thursday. Beijing has a warm trade and diplomatic relationship with Iran, a country that helps support Hamas and other militant groups in the Middle East, and Mr. Biden is expected to stress to Mr. Xi that the United States will respond to any expansion of the war caused by Iran," noted The Times.

What would Biden want out of the meeting?

While the US strategic interests are obviously driving the US policy regarding China, US President Joe Biden would personally also want an improved relationship with China as it could help him in upcoming elections, according to think tank Atlantic Council.

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Despite strong economic news, polls put former US President and most likely Republican candidate Donald Trump ahead of Biden in the 2024 race to White House.

"Biden is unlikely to significantly change his current position on China, one that aims to curb China’s economic growth and limit its diplomatic influence while maintaining US geopolitical dominance. But the Atlantic Council think-tank suggests that maintaining open dialogue with China will gain Biden support from the US public. Only 13 per cent of Americans want a confrontational approach to China, a recent poll suggests. Biden needs a bump in the polls," writes Dafydd Townley, Teaching Fellow in International Security, University of Portsmouth, in The Conversation. 

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Since the meeting takes place in the run-up to the presidential elections next year, Biden has to balance the hawkish stance and the need to stabilise relations. Townley notes that he cannot appear to be a weak in his dealings with China, particularly as Trump would pick up the issue.

"This meeting could cap tension levels and offer some stability for further negotiations. For Biden, it’s a domestic minefield. If he is too “hard” in his positioning, he risks alienating the electorate, while if he is too soft, he will attract criticism from Republicans. If Biden can walk this tightrope successfully, he may be able to use it during next year’s election cycle, showing he’s the right person to lead the United States," notes Townley.

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