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Rorry Daniels: Xi-Biden meet sends a clear message for responsible management of China-U.S. relations

Reality Check

Editor's note: The much-anticipated meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and his American counterpart, Joe Biden, was held on the sidelines of the APEC Summit on November 15. Over four hours at a country estate near San Francisco, the two leaders engaged in discussions aimed at stabilizing China-U.S. relations — evidently the most important bilateral relationship in the world today.  To understand the far-reaching bilateral and global implications of this important exchange, CGTN's Senior International Editor Abhishek G. Bhaya spoke with Ms. Rorry Daniels, Managing Director of Asia Society Policy Institute (ASPI) and a Senior Fellow at the institute's Center for China Analysis. The views expressed in the video are her own and not necessarily those of CGTN.

Edited excerpts:

CGTN: What are your first impressions of the Xi-Biden meeting? What are the key outcomes of the summit in your opinion, and the potential impact on shaping the trajectory of China-U.S. relations from here on?

Rorry Daniels: I think the results of the meeting are quite positive. The two sides have announced progress on areas where the U.S. has long wanted further cooperation with China, including on the issue of fentanyl and fentanyl precursor production in China, including to re-establish military-to-military dialogue, an area where the U.S. wants to be sure that we avoid miscommunications and misperceptions from escalating into military conflict.

You know, both sides seem to come to the table, wanting to show the world that they can and will manage this relationship responsibly. So, I think the tone overall was candid and constructive. And that of course builds on the spirit of last year's Bali meeting, and supports further high-level diplomacy, as well as working-level coordination on some of those important issues they mentioned.

CGTN: President Xi, in his opening remarks, also emphasized that the world is big enough to accommodate both countries, and one country's success is an opportunity for the other, while President Biden highlighted the importance of ensuring that "competition does not veer into conflict." How do you interpret this dynamic and what measures or strategies can both countries employ to strike a balance between competition and cooperation?

Rorry Daniels: I think dialogue and communication are absolutely key to striking that appropriate balance. As long as we can manage the disagreements through dialogue and communication, I think there is a chance to show both the public and the world that we can manage the relationship responsibly. It's critically important for both sides that they respond to the global need for the U.S. and China to manage that relationship responsibly.

CGTN: There is a prevailing view among analysts that an improved China-U.S. relationship is in the best interest of the global community. Do you share this perspective? In your opinion, how does the Xi-Biden meeting hold the potential to pave the way for a more positive and constructive relationship between the two nations?

Rorry Daniels: I absolutely share the opinion that it's critically important for the world for the U.S. and China to manage their relationship responsibly. We're facing actual global existential crises right now, including a climate crisis, but also, I think, crises that emanate from food insecurity, from energy insecurity.

So there's a ton of problems on the global agenda that we need to solve in the 21st century or at least we need to manage better and having the U.S. and China set a stable floor under the relationship not only gives us a better chance to cooperate, coordinate and de-conflict our respective bilateral approaches to those issues, but also sends a signal to the rest of the world that cooperating with the United States on one side or with China on the other is not going to impede their relationship with the other side.

The countries of the world don't want to have to choose between the U.S. and China. It's not, you know, it's not useful for them to feel as though this is a divided world where the U.S. leads one side and China leads another. It's not useful for the countries of the world and it's not useful for solving our problems. And I think that's why President Biden and President Xi came to the summit with a clear message that they want to manage this relationship responsibly, that they see dialogue and diplomacy as the pathway forward to doing that, and that it will benefit both peoples in those countries but around the world.

CGTN: Next year is critical for the U.S., it’s a presidential election year. Do you think that the positive tone that was set by the Xi-Biden meeting will continue in the U.S. political discourse, considering we know how vicious the presidential campaigns could get and the rhetoric that comes out of the campaigns on China?

Rorry Daniels: I think the U.S. and China are looking at a year ahead where events might play a large role in determining the stability of the relationship. And so, it's critically important that this meeting went well that it was constructive, candid, and opened up these channels of communication that can sustain us through the events going forward in the next year.

I think President Biden was incredibly clear with President Xi that our one-China policy has not changed. And that's a very important reassurance right now, in a period of potential political turbulence. So, I'm very positively impressed by President Biden's clear underlining that while it is the critical United States interest to protect and advance peace and stability in the Taiwan Straits, that the U.S. is not trying to change its one-China policy at this moment.

I think the Biden administration has determined that having a stable and constructive relationship with China is a position that it can defend throughout this election period. There are going to be a number of statements about China that are made in the contest to win the Republican nomination, and likely additional comments on China as the two nominees compete in the general election.

But clearly, the Biden administration has made a calculated and strategic choice that it is good for the American people, for their interests and therefore for the president's own record, to have a stable and constructive relationship with China. And hopefully, that momentum will carry through throughout the election year and beyond, no matter who was elected president.

(If you want to contribute and have specific expertise, please contact us at opinions@cgtn.com. Follow @thouse_opinions on Twitter to discover the latest commentaries in the CGTN Opinion Section.)

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