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Xi Jinping’s goals for APEC summit, Biden meeting revealed by China state-controlled outlets

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ANALYSIS

Chinese President Xi Jinping meets President Biden this week on the sidelines of an international economic summit in San Francisco seeking concessions from the United States on ideology, trade and exports, according to a review of Chinese state media ahead of the meeting.

A common theme of Chinese official accounts in the days leading up to the first meeting of the two presidents in a year is that bilateral relations with the U.S. should be based on three principles, starting with “mutual respect.” That reflects China’s demand that the U.S. not try to subvert Beijing‘s communist system, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

Mr. Biden and Mr. Xi are scheduled to meet Wednesday during the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation. Mr. Xi also plans to deliver a speech in San Francisco on his proposals for deeper Asia-Pacific cooperation and regional and global growth.

The Chinese leader in recent months has raised questions with his mercurial conduct in two high-profile foreign appearances.

In August, while attending a meeting of developing nations in South Africa, Mr. Xi failed to show up for a scheduled speech. Then in September, he declined to take part in a meeting of G20 nations in India, amid tensions with Delhi over a border dispute.

Mr. Xi‘s “three principles” also include a demand for peaceful coexistence with the U.S. and “win-win” cooperation as preconditions for improved ties with Washington. But a growing number of U.S. defense and military officials have called into question that agenda, noting what they say is Beijing‘s increasingly aggressive military activities in the region.

Chinese forces in the South China Sea have clashed with Philippines vessels seeking to resupply a disputed island outpost in the South China Sea. China is increasing the tempo of military operations around Taiwan as pressure against what it views as “separatist” activities by the Taipei government.

Militarily, China sharply increased provocative and potentially dangerous aerial intercepts and warship encounters with the U.S. and its allies, officials have said.

The Xinhua commentary made clear that a primary goal for Mr. Xi in San Francisco is to make clear that the United States must “recognize and appreciate” differences between the U.S. and Chinese systems of government.

“There shouldn’t be any attempt to remake the other in its own image or change or sabotage the other’s system,” the commentary said. “The leadership of the Communist Party of China and China‘s socialist system are supported by all Chinese nationals and are the fundamental guarantee for China‘s development and stability.”

The commentary went on to call for an end to what it called the American “Cold War mentality,” code for U.S. anti-communism. This outlook is viewed by Mr. Xi and the ruling Chinese Communist Party as a plan to encircle and contain China’s rise as a global power, the article stated.

China’s 1.4 billion people are not represented by the estimated 98 million members of the ruling Chinese Communist Party, according to pro-democracy Chinese dissidents. That gap in system legitimacy is a source of party leadership uncertainty about its hold on power, regime critics say.

Chinese democracy activist Wei Jinsheng recently told Congress that the U.S. should indeed seek to change the Chinese system: “I wish the American people would consider changing to a new policy. … If you will not change China, then Xi Jinping will change you.”

A fear of color revolutions

Protecting the communist system from what Beijing has said are CIA-led “color revolutions” around the world has been a key demand of Chinese officials since the earliest days of the Biden administration.

Early on, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman traveled to China and was given two lists of multiple demands for re-setting relations between Washington and Beijing, in particular, that the United States not seek to undermine the Chinese system. A White House official said at the time the demand not to overthrow the Chinese system was not accepted.

However, Mr. Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have since said the United States is not trying to undermine China’s system as it seeks to ease tensions between Washington and Beijing.

Miles Yu, a State Department policymaker on China during the Trump administration, said Mr. Xi‘s three principles are actually a coded demand that the United States tolerate “China’s disrespect for global order, rule of law, and belligerence toward its neighbors.”

China‘s Communist leadership is attempting to “hoodwink the world into thinking unprincipled engagement with the PRC can be mutually beneficial,” he said.

China “will never accept losing to its competitors, for that would mean the demise of the communist dictatorship,” said Mr. Yu, now director of the Hudson Institute’s China Center, said. “This is what Xi Jinping means when he repeatedly says that all aspects of the U.S.-China bilateral relationship are nothing but a matter of a life-or-death struggle.”

Seeking to shield China‘s system of government coincides with Mr. Xi’s renewed emphasis on spreading the socialist system known as “Marxism-Leninism with Chinese characteristics for a new era” – the new era dating from when Mr. Xi first took power in 2012. The shift represents a backing off from the market-oriented reforms that began in the 1980s as a reaction to many of the disastrous economic policies of Mao Zedong.

Retired Navy Capt. James Fanell, a former Pacific Fleet intelligence chief, said the Xinhua article offers a key to China‘s aggressive approach to the summit.

“First will be the lectures like this, then there will be the appearance of cordial relations with photos from the edges of APEC and the leader summit,” he predicted. “Then will come military intimidation. These are called ‘shaping operations’ in the military vernacular.”

The intended outcome of the effort is to “get your adversary to back down, break his will to resist, to collapse, to cave, to engage, and yes, to conduct ‘exchanges’ that further [China‘s] dominance,” Capt. Fanell said.

The White House said in a briefing for reporters that renewing frozen direct military exchanges between the Pentagon and the People’s Liberation Army will be a major goal for Mr. Biden in the talks. China cut off military talks and exchanges in August 2022 to protest the visit to Taiwan by then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

“The president has been determined to take the necessary steps to restore what we believe are essential communications between the United States and China on the military side,” a senior administration official said, arguing they are vital to avoiding accidents and misunderstandings that could lead to a larger,  unintended conflict.

Hardball

Hudson Institute scholar Thomas J. Duesterberg believes placating Mr. Xi will not change China’s behavior that is seeking to challenge American interests worldwide. Mr. Xi is expected to play hardball at the talks, taking advantage of the distraction in Washington, with two major wars in Ukraine and the Middle East sapping U.S. diplomatic and military resources.

Mr. Xi will likely pledge to cooperate on issues such as climate change and provide better access to Chinese markets if the United States reduces tariffs, export controls and investment restrictions, he wrote in an article in the Wall Street Journal

“Those will be empty promises, as in the past,” Mr. Duesterberg said. “Carrots have never worked with Beijing.”

The Hudson analyst noted that “fortunately, at least four sticks are available to Mr. Biden” as he and Mr. Xi sit down to talk.

The administration, he said, should sanction Chinese banks involved in illicit purchases of Iranian and Russian oil and ban the popular video app TikTok to demand reciprocity in China for U.S. social media apps, he said. Mr. Biden also should tell Mr. Xi that the United States will not provide Treasury or Federal Reserve dollar relief for China if its faltering financial system runs short.

The president should also inform Mr. Xi that he will expand investment restrictions preventing American companies from portfolio investments in sanctioned Chinese firms.

Mr. Duesterberg said such blunt talks at a time of growing Chinese domestic problems could prompt Mr. Xi to back off support for Russia and Iran. “It’s clear that concessions won’t do the job,” he said.

Mr. Duesterberg was responding to an article written by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, considered among the senior administration officials seeking closer China ties. Ms. Yellen wrote that U.S. policy toward China should be part of a pragmatic strategy to protect U.S. security while seeking “a stable and healthy economic relationship with Beijing.

China Daily, another Chinese outlet with close ties to the Communist Party, said normalized U.S.-China ties will only come as the result of American concessions, noting a reiteration of U.S. promises not to support Taiwan‘s independence or to seek a policy of “decoupling” economically from 

“Both countries are engaged in primary-level dialogue and communication, but a lack of strategic mutual trust has prevented the two sides from reaching a consensus on any issue, especially because the U.S. is yet to take any substantial action to rebuild mutual trust,” China Daily stated. The news outlet also said the United States continues to “sow discord” in the South China Sea and imposed “illegal sanctions” on Chinese officials regarding human rights violations in Tibet.

Recent improved ties are the result of administration “tactical adjustments” in China policy, China Daily reported, in part because Washington needs   Beijing’s support for resolving difficult problems like the Ukraine war and the opioid crisis.

“As long as the U.S. maintains its sense of superiority, its hegemonic mindset and its ideological biases toward China, it will not change its ‘China-containment’ strategy,” China Daily said.

The nationalist Global Times, which also is close to the Chinese Communist Party leadership, predicted that Mr. Xi will seek help from the United States to boost Beijing‘s ailing economy. China wants the United States to stop defining its policy toward Beijing as strategic competition, Global Times said, noting Beijing’s opposition to sanctions and trade restrictions.

China wants the United States to respect Chinese concerns and rights to development rather than “harming China‘s interests,” Global Times said, quoting a Foreign Ministry spokesman.

• Bill Gertz can be reached at bgertz@washingtontimes.com.

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