Emerging from the talks, and a brief walk with Xi on the grounds of a mansion south of San Francisco, Biden told reporters that the conversation had been the “most constructive and productive” between the two men since Biden had come to office.The agreements they announced were modest, however, and their most important commitments were to keep talking and to pick up the phone in times of crisis. On one of the critical issues, barring the use of artificial intelligence in the command and control systems of their nuclear arsenals, no formal set of discussions was established. Instead, Biden’s aides said that Jake Sullivan, the NSA, would keep talking with Wang Yi, China’s chief foreign affairs official.
Biden went out of his way to show respect for Xi, greeting him at the entrance to Filoli, a century-old mansion with gardens that was chosen as a private locale for the leaders of the world’s two most critical military, technological and economic superpowers to talk. Xi also sounded accommodating when he arrived, telling Biden, “Planet Earth is big enough” for both superpowers. He told Biden that their countries were very different but should be “fully capable of rising above differences.”
By both American and Chinese accounts, the leaders repeated old talking points about Taiwan, even as Xi voiced worries that the coming election on the island could lead to talk of independence – one of the “red lines” that Chinese officials have said could force them to take military action. The leaders agreed to resume military-to-military communications, which China had cut off after Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan last year, when she was speaker of the House. Such commitments to communicate – for transparency, and to avert collisions and crises – have been made before, and Biden made the case that military channels had to remain open to prevent potential clashes. It is unclear how Xi responded.
They also took up the issue of fentanyl, a potent drug that has killed hundreds of thousands of Americans. Biden later described the outline of an agreement that would commit Beijing to regulating components of fentanyl. But China has made similar commitments before. The two men also spoke about the technology race between their countries, which sits at the core of their increasingly bitter competition. Xi complained about escalating American export restrictions on advanced computer chips, which are fundamental to China’s technological ambitions.