The Dueling Narratives on Biden and Xi’s Meeting

A look into how both nations portrayed the California summit.

Written by Anthony Constantini

What’s happening: President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping met recently in San Francisco. On the docket were discussions on fentanyl production, trade, Taiwan, and others. But overlooked by many was the after-meeting “readouts” — summaries — released by both countries, which diverged in tone and topic.

Why it matters: Both sides’ readouts revealed that Biden and Xi disagree strongly on the coming years. America views competition as inevitable and is portraying itself as ready to win that competition. China insists competition is not necessary - but seems certain that it will win any competition, should it occur.

What the White House released: Biden’s readout highlighted successes, including the resumption of high-level military communication. It also repeated America’s long-held position on Taiwan, namely that there should be no forced reunification with China. But Biden’s overarching theme of rivalry was clear.

  • Quote: “President Biden emphasized that the United States and China are in competition, noting that the United States would continue to invest in the sources of American strength at home and align with allies and partners around the world.”

What China released: While highlighting the interlocking of America and China’s economies, China’s readout painted the nation’s rise as something that “will not be stopped by external forces.” It also claimed reunification with Taiwan is “unstoppable.”

  • Quote: China is promoting the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation…through Chinese modernization. It will not take the old path of colonization and plundering, or the wrong path of seeking hegemony with growing strength. It does not export its ideology. It has no plan to surpass or unseat the United States.”