Xi-Biden Meeting Could Establish a “Floor” for US-China Relations

By Tom Porter
While the US-China relationship remains rocky, the upcoming meeting between Presidents Biden and Xi could represent cautious progress in the normalization of diplomatic ties between the two countries, said Bowdoin’s Christopher Heurlin in a TV interview.

The associate professor of government and Asian studies was a recent guest on Fox LiveNOW, where he was asked for his thoughts ahead of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum—an international summit that gets underway in California on Wednesday, November 15, 2023.

heurlin on fox live

Heurlin, who also directs Bowdoin’s Asian Studies Program, said this is the first time President Xi Jinping has visited the US since 2017. Expectations among observers that something concrete will be achieved at the summit are low, said Heurlin, but there is hope that two leaders will “establish a floor” for US-China relations.

“On the US side, Biden is expected to raise the issue of military-to-military ties,” explained Heurlin. These ties were suspended by China in response to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan last year. “The US wants to reestablish these ties, especially in the case of some kind of crisis event in the South China Sea,” he said. “The Pentagon wants Beijing to pick up the phone” should a diplomatic emergency occur.

For its part, continued Heurlin, China wants to reassure international investors that it is a good place to do business, amid declining investor confidence in the country. “China will also be pushing back against US sanctions on semiconductors, hoping to get some tariffs removed and things of that sort,” he added.

While there is no doubt that relations between US and China are poor, said Heurlin, citing recent public opinion polls that suggest “for the first time, a majority of Republicans, independents, and Democrats all view China as a critical threat,” there are also grounds for cautious optimism. “We have seen visits by various US cabinet secretaries to China in the last year [including the Secretary of State] … and so things are hopefully on a bit of an upswing, but it's certainly a rocky relationship at this point.”

One subject that Heurlin said he’ll be keeping a close eye on is a proposal to prevent the use of Artificial Intelligence in the command and control systems of nuclear weapons. Watch Heurlin on FoxLiveNOW.