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From The New York Times, I'm Sabrina Tavernissi, and this is The Daily. We begin tonight with a critical event for President Biden. This week, one of the most highly anticipated diplomatic events of the year took place in a mansion outside San Francisco.


President Biden has a high stake summit today with China's Xi Jinping, somewhere.


Near where President Biden and Xi Jinping of China met to repair their country's relations. This is the first time they are meeting, the first time they are even talking in a year, and it comes as President Biden- Which had sunk to one of the lowest points since they were established in 1972. With the world watching, a lot is riding on this meeting with the nation's biggest rival. Today, my colleague, Edward Wang, on the effort to bring the relationship back from the brink. It's Friday, November 17th. Ed, we've been talking to you throughout this year about the world's most important relationship, and that is the relationship between the United States and China. This week, there was a breakthrough of sorts. President Biden and Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, met on Wednesday in the United States. Help us understand what was at stake here.


Well, Sabrinna, this is the first time that Xi Putin has come to the United States since 2017. And these two leaders are the heads of nations that are the preeminent economic and military powers in the world right now. But these days, what we're seeing is that the military dimension of the relationship is starting to overshadow the economic ties. The US is constantly telling us about the rapid expansion of China's military, its growth. And on Beijing's side, they see the US as a power that wants to have unfettered military access throughout the Asia Pacific.


So what you're saying is that they are perhaps slowly but steadily becoming military rivals.


That's right. And what we're hearing from President Biden and his aides is that the US and China really need to have high-level diplomacy to figure out wood, guardrails to put on the relationship so that they don't end up in an armed conflict.


Okay, so that's the global security stakes of this meeting, which are quite substantial.


That's right. It's a very fraught backdrop. Many countries in the world see the relationship between the US and China as the one in the world that could affect the economies and even the military development of other countries. And a lot of people who've been watching the relationship closely say it had reached an all-time low.


We, of course, have talked a lot on the show, you and I, Ed, about China's relationship with the US and how it has soured. So if we were to go back and remind people what all has happened to lead up to this moment, where would you begin? What is the moment you would start to help us understand that?


Well, things were already very bad before Biden came into the office because the relations had entered a downward spiral during the Trump era. And then when Biden came in, Chinese officials really thought things might improve. But Biden continued to take a confrontational approach towards China. And then there were things outside his control that really made things worse. One of the biggest flashpoints that took place in US-China relations was when Nancy Pelosi, the House Speaker, decided to visit Taiwan in August of 2022. The House Speaker, one of the highest ranking officials in the US visiting Taiwan is a big deal, something that President Biden had said he didn't want to happen.


Remind me, Ed, why that was such an inflammatory thing.


Well, China sees Taiwan as a part of China, not as an independent government, and so it doesn't want other countries to have diplomatic relations with Taiwan. So then China took very aggressive military actions to retaliate against that. It fired off missiles around the Taiwan Strait, and it also went further. It broke off high-level dialogs with the US, including military conversations that were taking place between the top commanders of both countries.


And what does it mean exactly, Ed, to break off military dialog?


Well, when you have two countries that have militaries as large as China and the US, and when those countries are rivals, you really want to have strong lines of communication between the military leaders. The reason is because the militaries of these two countries might brush up against each other in lots of different settings around the world. And so you want leaders to be able to talk to each other to figure out what's happening if a crisis starts to erupt. And that could then end up preventing a larger armed conflict.


So in other words, they're trying to prevent the misunderstanding that can lead to conflict, which can happen when there's maximum suspicion and minimum communication between two countries, right?


That's right. So this is very important and became an established practice during the Cold War. In that era, America and the Soviet Union had these very close lines of communication among the militaries in order to prevent nuclear war. The two militaries were operating all around the globe, and they wanted to make sure that there wasn't a crisis that could expand, like the Cuban missile crisis, for example, that could lead to nuclear confrontation.


Right, because our relationship with the Soviet Union was fundamentally one of two military adversaries, right? But we managed to avoid nuclear conflict through those back channels, what you're calling military-to-military communication.


That's right. I think people understand that this is an important foundation to lay among rivals of this size. And US officials tell me that this is one of the most important things they can possibly do with China. They've been saying that military-to-military ties are fairly weak between the US and China, and they're very concerned about this. And what makes the American officials so anxious is that in recent years, the Chinese and American militaries have been coming to closer and closer contact all across Asia. This has been happening, for example, in the South China Sea, as Chinese vessels and aircraft come into closer contact with American naval ships and American jets there. And US officials tell me that as these militaries come into closer contact with each other, they really need the leaders of the militaries to be talking quickly to each other too, to make sure that a crisis does not erupt.


So after China severed these military-to-military communications, what happens then?


Well, within a couple of months, President Biden announced there's a very ambitious policy towards China, which is a restriction on exports of the most advanced microchips to China. And China sees this as a huge provocation. They see this as the US trying to limit China's economic growth and to really keep the country down.


So this is another big bump in the relationship. Is there a point where the two sides try to reset, have a cooling-off period?


Will President Biden and President X have an important meeting that November in Bali? We begin with a landmark meeting between two of the world's most powerful leaders, President- And their meeting on the sidelines of the G20 Summit.


In today's meeting, I stand ready to talk candidly with.


My counterpart.


These two men had never met before in person as the leaders of their countries.


As you know, I'm committed to keeping the lines and communications open between you and me personally, but our governments across the board because our two countries are have so much that we have an opportunity to deal with.


So the whole purpose of this meeting was for each leader to tell the other one that there needed to be some foundational stability in the relationship. They wanted to be able to weather certain storms like what happened with Nancy Pelosi when she went to Taiwan. They thought that this would be the start of an effort to really bring relations in 2023 back to a higher level.


But then, as we know, of course, that gets tested pretty quickly with that strange Chinese spy balloon floating over Montana in February. You and I did an episode about that. It was unclear exactly what it was, whether the Chinese had wanted to send it. But at any rate, the relationship is still on the rocks.


Right. And at the moment, Sabrinna, US officials were trying to figure out whether C was the one who had given the green light for this balloon to go over the US and that it just happened that the Americans discovered it. But then US intelligence agencies figured out that the balloon had drifted off course. And then they also found out that she didn't know about the balloon, that it was a program under the PLA, the Chinese military, and that she only found out about it after it come over to the US, and that she even got furious at his generals for what happened.


Right. I remember ending that episode thinking it was pretty crazy that this huge relationship is blown off course by this little balloon. And at the time, you said both countries really badly wanted to get to the point where incidents like that did not paralyze them, but it seemed unlikely at the time. That's how we ended that episode. So what gets these leaders back to the table? What happens?


So the US and China decide to engage in this intense diplomatic scramble to really try and get high-level talks back on track. And the US starts sending a series of senior Biden aids to China.


The US Secretary of State.


Anthony Blinkin, met with.


The Chinese Foreign Minister in Beijing.


In June, I went with Blinkin when he made his visit finally to China. It was his first visit as Secretary of State. And then some other cabinet secretaries followed.


Treasury Secretary Janet, Janet.


Yellen, will visit- US Climate Envoy, John Kerry is in Beijing.


Us Commerce Secretary, Gina Romando heading to China this weekend. She's the fourth senior Biden administration official now to make the trip.


And then- Senate Majority Leader, Chuck Schumer, met with.


Chinese President-Chi-Jun (莹 峻 ) even decided to meet with Chuck Schumer, the senior Democrat in the Senate.




President, Xi.




Welcomes California governor, Gavin Newsom. And Gavin Newsom, the governor of California. And I think what that really showed was that she himself really wanted to get the diplomacy on a stable footing. And while all this was going on, people in both capitals were wondering whether this meant that she would decide to come to the United States at some point this fall and meet with Biden.


I mean, I remember you and I were talking about this, right? And it was unclear whether he would. The jury was out for quite a while.


Yeah, it wasn't quite certain. Just a few weeks ago, US officials were telling me that the chances are probably 70-30 that she would come. And here in Washington, among the diplomatic press court and the White House reporters, we're all trying decide whether to pack our bags to go to San Francisco for a meeting. And then we finally got word last week that she was on his way. And this is the meeting that people have been waiting for all throughout the year.


We'll be right back.


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So what actually happens at this much anticipated meeting on Wednesday? Bring us into the room.


Well, Sabrinne, Xi Jinping flies into San Francisco, and he and his convoy go south of the city to a vast estate near the Coast. This is the Philoli estate, which is founded by a gold baron a century ago. It's lush. There's amazing trees all over the place. And he pulls up in his Chinese-made Red Flag limousine at the door of the manor. Open the door. Ready. Doors.


Ready. Up.


And by then, then we'd see right there on the red carpet, they shake hands, and then they walk together inside the estate. And at 11:30 or so...


This time of year, about a year and a day ago, we met in Bali.


The two deliver opening remarks.


I value our conversation because I think it's paramount that you and I understand each other clearly, leader to leader with no misconceptions or miscommunication.


Biden tells she that he's there to make sure that the two leaders and the two countries have clear lines of communication, that they really understand each other's intentions.


We have to ensure that competition does not veer in a conflict. And we also have to manage it responsibly, that competition..


Mr. President, good morning.


And she tells Biden and the public.


China-us relationship has never been smooth sailing over the past 50 years or more, and it always faces problems of one kind or another. Yet it has kept moving forward amid twists and turns.


That planet Earth is big enough for two superpowers.


I'm still of the view that major country competition is not the prevailing trend of current times and cannot solve the problems facing China and the United States or the world at large.


That the two can co-exist and cooperate and they don't need to be rivals.


And one country's success is an opportunity for the other.


I think what's interesting, Sabrinah, when you listen to those two sets of remarks, is that she doesn't even want to frame the US-China relationship as a competition or as a rivalry. Whereas, Biden is very explicit that they're engaged in competition. And in a way, the two leaders are talking past each other even in their public remarks.


Right, Biden actually seems to have the more hawkish position in these meetings if you're listening to public statements. So what do we know then about what happens one once they actually get into the room?


Well, Sabrinna, both, Biden and sea talked about some of the big, long-running issues between the two nations like Taiwan. But both sides also affirmed that there were areas of cooperation that they could move forward on. One of them was climate change. They also said that China would try and limit the export of chemicals that are used to make fentanyl. But I think what's more important is that the two leaders realized their governments needed to establish rules of the rivalry and that they couldn't let things spin out of control.


Okay, so rules of this new rivalry we've been talking about, what kinds of rules? What did they actually decide? Well, I.


Think one of the outcomes that everyone is hoping for was that the two countries would reestablish high-level talks between their military commanders. Us officials have been working hard to try and get that reestablished. And out of this meeting, both leaders agreed that that should happen.


So that communication channel is open again. What else was on the table on the security front? What other guardrails did they discuss?


Well, one thing that has surprised US officials is that Chinese officials seem more willing to enter into talks over arms control. Now, China had wanted to avoid doing this for a long time. And I think that at this meeting, there were more encouraging signs that Chinese officials were willing to do this.


And at arms control, obviously, famously, the United States did a lot of it with the Soviets. Why is China asking for it, exactly?


Well, China sees the US starting to build up its military alliances around the Asia Pacific, and it sees the US trying to deploy more ballistic missiles all over the Asia-Pacific region. And the obvious purpose for that would be to aim those missiles at China in the event of war. So the US is sending Tomahawk missiles to Japan, for example, as a result of strengthening its alliances with Tokyo. And so China is concerned about this. It doesn't want more deployment of these missiles all around it. And so it's willing to at least start engaging the US in possible arms control talks. And the US is also very concerned. Us officials have been watching China's buildup of its nuclear arsenal for some months now. Right now, it's the third ranking country in terms of number of nuclear warheads still far below US and Russia, but it could quickly accelerate the growth of its arsenal.


But it sounds like from the Chinese perspective, the US is in fact the one with the dangerous behavior. The Chinese are basically saying, Hey, guys, you're telling us to put on this seatbelt, observe the rules of the road, but you guys are the ones that are driving the car 90 miles an hour.


China has long felt that way, and it believes that US forces are the military aggressors in the Asia Pacific. They think that the US Navy is pushing the boundaries of where it operates and that it's not respecting the limits that China is trying to set in the region there.


It strikes me that she, in a lot of ways, looks like the peacemaker here. I mean, he's presenting himself as above the fray and saying, Hey, we really want to put the brakes on this. We don't see this relationship as a confrontation.


Well, this is something that China has been trying to put forward in the world for some months now. It wants China and she to look like these are the adults in the room. She wants to make it look like he's the one who's trying to keep everything on a stable footing with the United States. He wants it to make it look like the US is the aggressor in the relationship, and it's consistent with the way they've approached some other conflicts around the world. China has often called for peace talks in Ukraine. It's now calling for a ceasefire in the Israel-Gaza War. And so it likes to present this image of itself as the main diplomatic force that's countering greater aggression by the US.


So how does this meeting wrap up? How does it end?


Well, the two sides talked with each other for two hours at that long table in the manner. And then, Biden and she went off to have a two-hour lunch meeting in a much smaller setting. And they ate chicken as well as rice, Lawf and some other California specialties.


It doesn't seem very elegant for dinner for the Chinese leader, but what are you going to do?




Okay, so stepping back and looking at this meeting with a little bit of hindsight, Ed, how should I understand what happened here? We started off this conversation talking about how the US and China are really transitioning to a new relationship, this military rivalry. Where are we in the arc of that transition? And how do we understand this meeting in that context?


Well, Sabrin, I think we're somewhere maybe in the middle of that arc. The dynamic started a few years ago, and it's accelerating now. China's military buildup is frightening many US officials, and that won't anytime soon, and the US intends to maintain its military dominance of the Asia Pacific. Those two things are incompatible. And I think what we'll see is further crisis points in the road ahead. When they talk about reaching agreement on certain small things like fentanyl, that's just to try and maintain a certain level of stability in the relationship. But on the big issues like Taiwan, which military gets dominance of the region, these are huge questions that both countries haven't tackled yet in any satisfactory manner. And I think that it'll be hard for both of them to address these issues in a diplomatic setting.


So you're saying in a lot of important ways, this didn't actually lower the temperature that much. Perhaps this is more like a temporary pause in what is likely to be an overall declining relationship.


Right. I wouldn't even call it a pause, Sabrina. I would say that I think both sides probably accept the direction the relationship is at this point, but that they realize they need to maintain communications. And that was the bar that Biden and his aid set for us when they briefed us on these talks before they began. They set a very low bar saying all they wanted to do was maintain some level of communication.


But Ed, I guess thinking about this meeting and you're telling me about it, what I would say is at least they now have some seatbelts. It's potentially not quite as dangerous. Do we have a sense of how is really seeing this?


Well, we know that she has made a lot of public remarks in which she's really pointed to aggressive moves by the US. This year, for example, he said for the first time in a setting that the US is trying to contain China. They see the US is trying to implant its rules and its institutions around the world, whether it's through the trade deals it negotiates or whether it's through American dominance in the United Nations or the World Bank, for example. And that all of these rules are set to try and limit the growth of other superpowers. So when the US officials talk about what they call a rules-based international order, Chinese officials, British officials, and many others see this as US attempts to keep other countries down. So Chinese.


Officials are essentially saying, Okay, you want rules, but whose rules? They're effectively your rules. We want to set our own.


Exactly, Sabrin. I think what we're going to see coming up in the months ahead is that China will increasingly push to set those rules, and that this is another area of confrontation between the two nations.


Ed, thank you.


Thanks, Sabrinna.


After the meeting on Wednesday, Biden was asked at a news conference whether he still thought that Xi Jinping was a dictator. He said that he did.


He dictated in a sense that he is a guy who runs a country that is quite the same thing based on the government to any different.


Later that night, at a dinner with business executives, the Chinese leader seemed intent on presenting himself as a willing partner. He said, quote, The number one question for us is, are we adversaries or are we friends? And he added, China is ready to be a partner and a friend of the United States. We'll be right back.


This podcast is supported by Metta. Instagram has family tools that help your family have a safer, healthier experience on the app. When teenagers set up their Instagram profile, default private accounts ensure that what they post stays private to them and their followers. Selecting a daily time limit helps your teenager keep healthy habits on Instagram. By setting up supervision together, you gain more insight into who they're following. Learn more about these and other family tools at Instagram. Com/familytools.


Here's what else you should know today. On Thursday, a day after it took control of Schiffa Hospital, the largest hospital in the Gaza Strip, the Israeli military was still searching the site for evidence to prove its claim that the hospital concealed a secret Hamas base. The claim that Hamas operated from within the sprawling hospital complex has been central to Israel's defense of its military campaign in Gaza, which is now said to have killed more than 11,000 people. The military has yet to present documentation of a network of tunnels, but Israel released several videos to bolster its case. One on Thursday of what it was a tunnel that was used by Hamas. However, it was unclear from the video what purpose the passageway served or how far it extended. Another video showed about a dozen guns, a Grenade, protective vests, and military uniforms. It said its soldiers had found within an MRI unit at the hospital. The Times could not verify the provenance of the weapons. A Hamas spokesman on Thursday accused Israel of planting them. The United States, for its part, said on Thursday that it believed that Hamas had been using the complex as a base.


And a jury convicted David de Papp of federal crimes for breaking into the home of Representative Nancy Pelosi in October of 2022 and bludgeoning her husband, Paul, with a hammer. According to testimony at trial, de Papp became obsessed with right-wing conspiracy theories and embraced the dehumanizing language about Nancy Pelosi that conservative pundits and politicians have used for years. The attack raised fears about political violence ahead of last year's midterm elections. De Papp faces the possibility of decades in prison. Today's episode was produced by Shannon Lynn, Luke van der Plug, and Sidney Harper. It was edited by MJ Davis Lynn with help from Brendan Klinkenberg. Contains original music by Marion Lozano and Dan Powell, and was engineered by Alyssa Moxley. Our theme music is by Jim Runberg and Ben Landswork of Wunderly. That's it for The Daily. I'm Sabrina Tavernizee. See you on Monday.


This podcast is supported by Metta. Instagram has family tools that help your family have a safer, healthier experience on the app. When teenagers set up their Instagram profile, default private accounts ensure that what they post stays private to them and their followers. Selecting a daily time limit helps your teenager keep healthy habits on Instagram. And by setting up supervision together, you gain more insight into who they're following. Learn more about these and other family tools at Instagram. Com/family_toools. Com.