November was a significant month for relations between the United States and the People’s Republic of China.
On November 14, President Joe Biden and PRC President Xi Jinping met for their first in-person encounter since both men assumed office. During the meeting, President Biden explained that the United States will continue to compete vigorously with the PRC, and he reiterated that this competition must not veer into conflict. President Biden underscored that the United States and the PRC must maintain open lines of communication, and the two leaders agreed to empower key senior officials to deepen constructive efforts on areas of shared interest.
Since then, there have been several high-level encounters between officials of the two countries. In each encounter, U.S. officials emphasized the need for communication between the United States and the PRC.
On November 18, Vice President Kamala Harris met briefly with President Xi on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, or APEC, Economic Leaders’ Meeting in Bangkok.
Also on the margins of the APEC Meeting on November 18, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai met with her counterpart PRC Commerce Minister Wang Wentao for their first face-to-face meeting. In addition to discussing bilateral trade, Ambassador Tai shared with Minister Wang the U.S. vision for APEC, which the United States will host in 2023.
A few days later on November 22, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin met the PRC’s Minister of National Defense Wei Fenghe in Cambodia on the sidelines of an Association of Southeast Asian Nations Defense Ministers’ Meeting. According to the Pentagon, the two leaders discussed the importance of “substantive dialogue on reducing risk and enhancing operational safety.” Secretary Austin “raised concerns about the increasingly dangerous behavior demonstrated by PLA [People’s Liberation Army] aircraft in the Indo-Pacific region that increases the risk of an accident.” Secretary Austin also emphasized the need to responsibly manage competition between the United States and the PRC.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken is now planning to visit the PRC in the new year. “World leaders,” he said at a press briefing, “expect us to manage the relationship responsibly, and…also find ways to cooperate,” including on key issues like climate, global health, and macroeconomics. “That’s necessary,” Secretary Blinken declared, “not only for the betterment of the lives of our own people, but the interests of people around the world.”