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Biden-Xi High-Stakes Meeting Has Russians Seeing Red

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The stakes could not be higher as Biden and Xi prepare for their high-wire diplomatic act, and Russia is smirking on the sidelines, relishing disorder and bitter division.

With many reports that Russia is closely monitoring the lead-up to the high-stakes meeting, the world is wondering how Biden will fare on this egg-shell tightrope walk. 

Will he stand up to China’s aggression? Or will he crack under pressure and come out of it empty-handed? America’s reputation hangs in the balance as these arch-rivals size each other up.

Amid already tense relations and a historically complicated relationship, Biden and China’s XI Jinping are set to meet on Wednesday during the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation, or APEC. This meeting marks only their second face-to-face meeting during Biden’s time in office.

It’s no secret that the relationship between the United States and China is extremely shaky, and many are wondering how this meeting will go down, and if they will actually be able to find common ground.

While the world will be watching closely, perhaps no one will be watching more attentively than Russia.

Moscow is wary of any exchanges between Washington and Beijing that could come at the expense of their strategic partnership. As China’s leading global ally, any sign of warming relations between the U.S. and China is likely to upset Moscow.

So, while most countries are simply curious to see the summit’s outcome, Russia will be scrutinizing it with the hope that the U.S.-China relations remain frosty.

In fact, Russian state media has already taken delight in downplaying the APEC summit where the Xi-Biden meeting will occur. A reporter for Russia’s state-run RIA Novosti news agency reported that a meeting of the APEC summit, one which was chaired by U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai, took place “in a half-empty hall,” essentially portraying the summit as sparsely attended and unimportant, contrasting this with statements from the U.S. about the summit’s significance. 

This hints at Russia’s eagerness to prevent improved ties between its ally China and the U.S. Moscow seems happy to stoke tensions between the two superpowers rather than enabling cooperation.

On the other hand, there have been efforts from both the U.S. and China to establish their strained relationship.

In the lead-up to the summit, American and Chinese officials have worked to reopen military communication channels that were severed after the spy balloon incident in February. They are also hoping to find areas of agreement, like restricting AI in nuclear weapons.

However, Biden faces major hurdles in improving strained ties with China. The differences between the two powers have only grown more pronounced. From the war in Ukraine to conflicts in the Middle East, China and the US back opposing sides vying for global influence. This larger clash between their divergent visions casts doubt on efforts to bridge divides at the summit. While incremental progress may occur, the ideological chasm separating Beijing and Washington continues to widen. Any rapprochement faces stark geopolitical realities.

However, when speaking to reporters at the White House before leaving, Biden seemed pretty hopeful. He mentioned that he aims to use this meeting to improve the unstable U.S.-China relationship.

Biden has even told reporters that his main goal is to get Washington and Beijing “on a normal course corresponding” again, despite the fact that they don’t necessarily see eye to eye.

As the two leaders entered the city, they were met by hundreds of demonstrators along their routes. People waved Chinese, Taiwanese, and Tibetan flags, along with signs both supporting and opposing the Chinese president. 

This immediate demonstration highlights the controversial nature of Xi’s visit and the clashing perspectives surrounding it. While Biden hopes to find common ground, many protesters have gathered to voice their skepticism and concerns about China’s policies and human rights record. This will cast an uneasy shadow over the talks despite Biden’s optimistic outlook.

However, Biden does plan to strike a deal with China restricting the use of artificial intelligence for nuclear weapons when the two leaders meet. According to a report by Business Insider, they will agree to limits on deploying AI technology in systems that control nuclear arms. The agreement will also cover autonomous weapons like drones.

This pact comes amid ongoing tensions between the U.S. and China over issues like the Chinese “spy balloon incident” and militarization in the South China Sea. However, concerns about unconstrained AI development for combat have been mounting., and many experts argue deals like this are crucial to avoid catastrophe as AI becomes more central to defense capabilities. Such as Phil Siegel, the founder of the Center for Advanced Preparedness and Threat Response Simulation, who claimed the agreement is “necessary,” and he also argued that major powers like Russia, for example, should also be involved in the deal.

Others, such as Christopher Alexander, the chief analytics officer of Pioneer Development Group, argue that the deal is not a great idea. He points out that China trails the U.S. in AI development, so restricting this technology concedes an edge to our rival. 

Moreover, AI can actually improve decision-making under stress, which is key for nuclear deterrence. By limiting AI use in these systems, the Biden administration has given up a strategic advantage and weakened safeguards against nuclear miscalculations, according to Alexander.

Still, questions remain about China’s trustworthiness. Critics point out China’s poor record of adhering to past agreements, such as the Paris Agreement; despite agreeing to reduce carbon emissions, China continued to be one of the world’s worst polluters. It also has no regard for human rights, and has had a horrific human rights record regarding international standards.

And while there are many concerns over the possibility of the meeting going south, Russia is still skeptical of the meet-up.

Russia seems intent on accentuating the differences between China and the United States. Russian media has focused on critiquing Western power and U.S. dominance in global affairs, framing these as concerns shared by both China and Russia.

The Kremlin provided a muted response regarding the Xi-Biden talks. Kremlin spokesperson Peskov stated the meeting is not a priority issue for Moscow but that Russia will be monitoring the outcomes.

He acknowledged China and the U.S. have the right to build bilateral relations. However, as the two largest economies, their engagements impact everyone. Russia plans to follow the messaging surrounding this high-level summit closely.

“After all, of the two largest economies in the world — is important for everyone, so one way or another, we will monitor the messages that will accompany this meeting,” he said at a briefing.

Essentially, Russia aims to stress divides between Beijing and Washington, while downplaying this event’s significance. Yet Moscow also recognizes the global implications of China-U.S. relations and will be watching developments closely.

While Biden is keen on re-establishing relations and has been hopeful for the outcome, and Russia is closely watching on the sidelines, it seems that China has found itself in a pretty difficult situation.

China has been caught off guard by the forcefulness of the West’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, leading to unexpected diplomatic isolation for Beijing. This pressure has put Xi in a tough spot, needing to stabilize relations with the US.

Washington will likely push China to use its leverage with Putin to constrain Russian military actions in Ukraine. But China has consistently echoed Russia’s narrative, blaming NATO expansion and the US for causing the crisis.

Xi and Putin have a genuine, mutually beneficial partnership, albeit with Russia now the junior partner. A weakened yet stable Russia provides vital energy resources to fuel China’s rise, seen as necessary for its long-term competition with the US.

The more the Ukraine crisis distracts the US from Asia-Pacific priorities, the better for Beijing’s goals of avoiding a US pivot east and American military buildup in the region. Keeping US-Russia tensions high, while ensuring Russia remains a useful partner, serves China’s strategic interests against the US.

Now the question here is, what will Biden do? Many have urged the Biden administration to hold China accountable for its actions, such as the spy balloon, concerns over COVID-19, and questionable tech and AI policies.

A key question is how Biden will handle the meeting with Xi. Many have pressed the administration to confront China over issues like the spy balloon, COVID-19, and technology and AI policies.

If Biden emerges from the summit without concrete progress, it would be embarrassing and a propaganda win for China’s regime. Critics argue such failures result from electing a president who compromised US interests, enabled by a compliant media eager to oust Trump.

In this view, Biden must take a strong stance or risk signaling acceptance of China’s transgressions. 

An empty-handed Biden would not only damage US credibility, but it would empower China, and frankly, it would be pretty embarrassing. 

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