November 27, 2022

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Biden wants to set “guard rails” in talks with Xi

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(COMBO) Created on November 11, 2022, this combination of images shows US President Joe Biden (L) speaking before the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate from the South Court Auditorium of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building adjacent to the White House in Washington , DC on June 17, 2022, and China’s President Xi Jinping (R) speaks after arriving with members of the new Standing Committee of the Chinese Communist Party’s Political Bureau, the nation’s top decision-making body, for a meeting with the media at the Great Hall of the People ran Beijing on October 23, 2022. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN and Noel CELIS / AFP)

by Andrew BEATTY / Sebastian Smith
Agence France Press

NUSA DUA, Indonesia (AFP) – US President Joe Biden meets China’s Xi Jinping in Bali on Monday, hoping to set “guard rails” for relations between the countries as the world’s 20 largest economies hold their first major summit after the hold off pandemic.

The gathering of superpowers will be Biden’s first face-to-face meeting with Xi since taking office. The couple last met in 2017 when Biden was vice president.

Leaders are faced with a sharply escalating rivalry between the world’s two largest economies and Beijing growing more powerful and confident to replace the US-led order that has prevailed since World War II.

Talks on the fringes of the G20 have the atmosphere of the icy Cold War conclaves between American and Soviet leaders in Potsdam, Vienna or Yalta that decided the fate of millions.

Biden has spoken about the meeting that sets each country’s “red lines.”

The overarching goal will be to establish “guard rails” and “clear rules of the road,” a senior White House official told reporters hours before the meeting.

“We do all this to ensure that competition does not turn into conflict.”

Biden is expected to urge China to rein in ally North Korea after a record-breaking spate of missile tests sparked fears Pyongyang will soon conduct its seventh nuclear test.

Xi, whose last in-person US summit was with Donald Trump in 2019, may not be in the mood to help. He arrives strengthened, having secured a landmark third term that cements him as the most powerful Chinese leader in generations.

Biden, too, comes bolstered by his Democratic Party’s better-than-expected midterm election performance, in which it retained control of the US Senate, though he remains vulnerable on domestic politics.

– Putin stays away –
The G20 summit opens in Bali on Tuesday, bringing with it soaring food and fuel prices around the world, conflict in Ukraine and the renewed threat of nuclear war casting an ominous shadow over the world.

There will be one conspicuous absence from the table – Russian President Vladimir Putin.

His botched nine-month-old invasion of Ukraine has made the trip to Bali logistically difficult and politically tense.

With members of his inner circle at loggerheads and his once-iron inner authority eroded, Putin opted instead to send veteran Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Officially, neither the war in Ukraine nor Putin’s dark threats about the use of nuclear weapons are on the agenda of the summit.

But while the ex-KGB man won’t be at the summit table, his war will certainly be on the menu.

Rising energy and food prices have hit richer and poorer G20 members alike – and both are directly fueled by the conflict.

On Monday, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said an end to the conflict was “a moral imperative and the best thing we can do for the global economy.”

And before leaving for Bali, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he would “challenge Putin’s regime”.

There will likely be pressure on Russia to extend a deal allowing Ukrainian grain and fertilizer shipments through the Black Sea when the current deal expires on November 19.

– ‘Never so complex’ –
Biden and his allies would also like the G20 to at least make it clear to Putin that nuclear war is unacceptable.

In a recent meeting with Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Xi said a nuclear war cannot be won and should never be fought.

But a clear statement from the group on the issue is likely to be blocked by a combination of Russian opposition and Chinese unwillingness to break ranks with its ally in Moscow or win Washington a victory.

The G20 – a disparate and unwieldy grouping formed in 1999 after the Asian financial crisis – has always felt most comfortable discussing finance and economics rather than security.

Moscow wants it to stay that way.

“We categorically reject the politicization of the G20,” Russia’s foreign ministry said on Sunday, offering a taste of what leaders might hear from the notoriously indomitable Lavrov.

The G20 ministerial meetings leading up to the summit failed to agree on a final joint communiqué, and Indonesian officials said on Monday it remained “work in progress” and a “principal objective” for the summit.

“Honestly, I think the global situation has never been so complex,” Indonesian Government Minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan said on Sunday.

“If the leaders (of the G20) don’t come out with a communiqué at the end, that’s fine.”

© Agence France-Presse

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