Former President Donald Trump said it best: “We have a guy in the White House who can’t put two sentences together, who couldn’t find his way off this stage. And this is the guy we have negotiating with….President Xi of China.”
Biden’s mental impairment is one reason to dread his upcoming meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping in San Francisco. Another is mounting evidence that the president is compromised. If indeed the president and his family took in millions of dollars from government-affiliated entities in China, as it appears they did, we can be certain the details of those transactions are known to Xi and can be used to “persuade” Biden to adopt the party line — the Communist Party line, that is.
At the least, Biden will most likely avoid challenging Xi on the critical role Beijing plays in poisoning tens of thousands of Americans each year with fentanyl or their support for Iran-backed Hamas.
Rather than hammer China’s president over his financing of Putin’s war crimes in Ukraine, his lies about the Wuhan virus, or the planned spy base in Cuba, Biden will stick to safe turf, like begging Xi to expand his country’s commitment to climate change. Xi will respond with platitudes, and then go about building coal-fired power plants at a feverish pace. In return, Biden will commit the U.S. to even more damaging regulations of our own carbon emissions.
Biden cannot afford to ruffle Xi’s notoriously delicate feathers. Instead, the entire summit will serve Xi’s need to demonstrate he is more powerful than Joe Biden. Once again, the U.S. president and his team will ignore this reality: China is in trouble, and they need us more than we need them.
How do we know how the conversations will go? Because that was the script when the two leaders last met, in Bali a year ago. The readout of that meeting from the White House highlighted Biden’s push for cooperation on climate change, as did the readout from the Chinese side.
To be fair, Biden did emphasize that the U.S. “opposes any unilateral changes to the status quo” regarding Taiwan. But he approached other hot topics obliquely, mildly criticizing, for example, Beijing’s “non-market economic practices” and raising “Russia’s brutal war against Ukraine and Russia’s irresponsible threats of nuclear use.”
“Non-market economic practices?” Like stealing critical patents, cyber-hacking and trampling the rules of international trade?
The humiliation this time around has already begun, with Beijing keeping the White House on tenterhooks for weeks about whether the encounter will even take place. As innumerable U.S. officials pressed for the summit, Biden looked desperate, which is, of course, exactly what the Chinese want.
Xi needs to look victorious in his relationship with the U.S. The dictator has brutally taken control of China’s economy, and it is not going well. Fearing an emerging and powerful business class who might threaten his dominance, Xi cracked down on tech entrepreneurs and other wealthy Chinese, roiling their confidence. He also orchestrated a devastating shut-down during COVID, which alarmed his citizens. Consumer spending has yet to recover.
China’s growth has slowed dramatically, exports are falling and foreign firms are fleeing the country, for the first time in modern history. In the second quarter, direct investment by foreign companies into China plummeted 87% compared to the year before, the largest drop since 1998.
Last year, household wealth fell in China for the first time in two decades. Youth unemployment is at record highs and consumer sentiment is in the gutter. Moreover, China’s problems will be compounded in coming years by the approach of a demographic cliff. The population, thanks to the long-time one-child policy, is already in decline.
Xi also delivered a critical blow against his country’s property development industry, which had fueled growth for decades and grown to some 30% of the economy. In 2021, Xi proclaimed “housing is for living in and not for speculation” and turned a real estate boom into a bust. Now the government is pulling out all stops to revive the deflating sector.
Xi needs a win, and one-upping President Biden will suffice.
It will start – guaranteed — with the visuals. Video of the Bali encounter shows Xi walking a few steps to the center of the marble-floored reception area while Biden sets off from the distant wings at a trot, eager to join the most despotic ruler since Mao. He then walks hastily towards his counterpart, grinning broadly and hand outstretched; Xi greets the U.S. president with a cursory smile and then snatches his hand away.
The impression? Joe Biden is needy and Xi is in control.
The White House has set expectations low for the meeting in San Francisco, telling reporters, “We’re not talking about a long list of outcomes or deliverables.” One thing Biden will seek is to reopen military-to-military communications, deemed essential in light of the 180-plus times that Chinese aircraft have interfered with U.S. planes since late 2021, more than the number recorded for the entire preceding decade. That was the goal of Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s trip to Beijing in June, but he was rebuffed.
The White House wants to appear “tough” on Beijing by, for instance, adopting various measures designed to lessen our reliance on China. Last year, Biden imposed a ban on exports of key semiconductor chips essential to producing military goods and to AI. By design or otherwise, those restrictions have quickly been rendered impotent as Nvidia found a way to design around the curbs.
That is Joe Biden’s White House in a nutshell. Uncertain, timid and ineffectual, just like the president.