Biden says US not looking to decouple economic ties with China after Xi summit

President Joe Biden says that the “real differences” the United States has with the People’s Republic of China won’t lead the American government to attempt to sever any economic ties with the world’s second-largest economy, even as his administration tightens some export controls on dual-use technologies and steps up efforts to regulate the use of emerging technologies.

Mr Biden told an assemblage of businesspeople at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation CEO summit on Thursday that his administration is “de-risking and diversifying our economic relations” with Beijing, “not decoupling”.

He added that the US would “be firm” in “standing up for our values and interests,” and said he conveyed that exact message to Chinese leader Xi Jinping during the leaders’ four-hour summit meeting on Wednesday.

“As my generation would say back in the day, it is not all ‘kumbaya,’ but it's straightforward,” he said.

“We've real differences with Beijing when it comes to maintaining a fair level economic playing field and protecting your intellectual property. We’ll continue to address them with smart policies and strong diplomacy while also taking targeted action to protect our vital national security interest,” he said.

President Joe Biden speaks to a group of CEOs Thursday, Nov. 16, 2023, in San Francisco, at the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference (AP)
President Joe Biden speaks to a group of CEOs Thursday, Nov. 16, 2023, in San Francisco, at the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference (AP)

Mr Biden described his sit-down with his Chinese counterpart as “candid and constructive” and said he emphasised to Mr Xi that the US “does not seek conflict” with his country.

He also told the CEO gathering that it “makes sense” for the US and PRC to “work together” on “critical global issues such as climate, AI and counternarcotics”.

“We've committed to work together, we're going to continue our commitment to diplomacy, to avoid surprises and prevent misunderstandings,” he said. “A stable relationship between the world's two largest economies is not merely good for the two economies but for the world ... it's good for everyone”.

The four-hour meeting between the two leaders capped months of careful diplomatic efforts by a range of top administration officials to lay the groundwork for the restoration of head-of-state level talks after a breakdown in relations brought on by the February shootdown of a Chinese-owned espionage airship off the East Coast of the US, as well as then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan in August 2022.

It ended with Mr Biden and Mr Xi agreeing to resume lines of communication between their respective countries’ defence departments, including consultations and exchanges at operational levels.

The leaders also unveiled an agreement for China to crack down on the manufacturing of and trade in precursor chemicals used to manufacture fentanyl, the deadly narcotic that has ravaged millions of lives across the US.