The biggest lingering international question about San Francisco’s upcoming, high-profile APEC summit was whether President Biden would meet face-to-face with Chinese President Xi Jinping, and the White House just announced Tuesday that “It’s happening.”
We are now barely two weeks out from the beginning of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) global leader summit, which will bring top diplomats from 21 countries to San Francisco, and constitute the most significant gathering of global leaders in SF since the creation of the United Nations in 1945.
SF civic leaders are fully engulfed in APEC preparation drama, from implementing widespread street closures and gussying up the city, and also fretting over minor details moving the ferris wheel and chasing off hot dog vendors.
But from a global standpoint, the biggest APEC drama in the works is the open question of whether President Biden (who is attending) will meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping face-to-face.
The Associated Press had a big weekend scoop that an agreement has been reached for the two of them to meet. (That report was based on an anonymous “U.S. official familiar with the planning.”) Then Tuesday morning, CNBC reported that the White House just confirmed the two leaders will indeed meet.
And just after noon PT on Tuesday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters, “it’s happening,” and "it's going to be in San Francisco.”
According to the AP, the outlines of a meeting agreement came last week when Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and national security adviser Jake Sullivan (Biden also met with Yi).
One of the biggest questions coming into the summit was whether Xi would attend, and China has not yet officially confirmed that he’s coming.
The summit will occur against the backdrop of the ongoing Ukraine-Russia war, over which U.S. is peeved with China for their friendly support of Russia, and the increasingly bloody Hamas-Israel conflict, over which the U.S. is irked that China is remaining so silent and neutral.
But the U.S. and China have their own issues with one another. There’s been months of provocatively close calls between U.S. and Chinese ships and aircraft, one as recently as last Thursday, with each side accusing the other of being the aggressor. Plus you’ll recall the whole Chinese spy balloon incident. The U.S. is also determined to prevent any Chinese aggression into the Philippines and Hong Kong.
Xi Jinping last visited the United States in 2017 under the Trump administration, but that was before Trump went on his whole “China Virus” kick, and also got more aggressive levying tariffs against the country. Biden and Xi last met face-to-face in November 2022 at a Group of 20 meeting in Bali, Indonesia, a couple months before the spy balloon affair.
Image: KYIV, UKRAINE - FEBRUARY 04: Russian nesting dolls of U.S President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping are seen at a souvenir stand on February 04, 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine. International fears of an imminent Russian military invasion of Ukraine continue to remain high as Russian troops mass along the Russian-Ukrainian border and weeks of diplomatic talks continue to stall. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)