Get US-China relations back to ‘normal’

SAN FRANCISCO — President Joe Biden and China’s Xi Jinping swept into San Francisco on Tuesday as the two leaders made their final preparations for their first engagement in a year at a historic estate outside of the city.

Biden expressed hope that the talks would help put a shaky U.S.-China relationship — marked by sharp differences over the last year — in a better place. The two leaders arrived in the city to be greeted by hundreds of demonstrators who lined up along their motorcade routes, waving Chinese, Taiwanese and Tibetan flags as well as signs in support of and opposition to the Chinese leader.

Biden, before leaving Washington to make his way West on Tuesday to attend this year’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, said his broad goal was to get Washington and Beijing “on a normal course corresponding” once again even as they have sharp differences on no shortage of issues.

“Being able to pick up the phone and talk to one another if there’s a crisis. Being able to make sure our militaries still have contact with one another,” Biden told reporters at the White House. “We’re not trying to decouple from China, but what we’re trying to do is change the relationship for the better.”

Meeting place

The two leaders will meet at Filoli Estate, a country house museum about 40 kilometers south of San Francisco, according to three senior administration officials. The officials requested anonymity to discuss the venue, which has not yet been confirmed by the White House and Chinese government.

Separately, a U.S. official confirmed that Biden and Xi are expected to announce an agreement that would restore talks under what’s known as the Military Maritime Consultative Agreement. The agreement is used by the U.S. and People’s Liberation Army navies and air forces to improve safety in the air and sea. Until 2020, they had been meeting regularly since 1998 for the talks. The official requested anonymity to preview the expected leaders’ announcement.

Biden arrived at San Francisco International Airport Tuesday afternoon and Xi landed shortly after. The Chinese president was welcomed on the tarmac by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, California Gov. Gavin Newsom and U.S. Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns.

Hundreds of onlookers gathered on the leaders’ motorcade route, some holding signs that read “End CCP,” the initials of Chinese Communist Party. Another sign read “Warmly Welcome President Xi Jinping” and was affixed to concrete bollards.

Pro-China and anti-China demonstrators also gathered near the Moscone Center, the venue where many APEC meetings were being held.

Beijing supporters waved U.S. and Chinese flags as they waited for Xi’s motorcade to arrive at the swanky hotel near the convention center where the Chinese delegation is staying. Several supporters used oversized Chinese national flags to obscure the few Xi critics there and used loudspeakers to play the patriotic “Ode to the Motherland.”

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