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IPFS News Link • China

Xi and Biden meet amid a fracturing world order

•, by Ishaan Tharoor

Both leaders will face each other after months of tensions and anticipation. There have been angry barbs tossed over the future of Taiwan and stealthy balloons sent over the North American landmass. Beijing fulminates over a legacy of U.S. global "hegemony" and styles itself as a champion of a different kind of international order. The Biden administration, much like its right-wing predecessor, sees a rising China as the main 21st-century challenge to the United States on the world stage, and has sought to organize both its domestic and international agendas in response.

But both Biden and Xi come to the summit somewhat in need of good news. The U.S. president is enmeshed in supporting two bloody, polarizing wars in Ukraine and Israel, and may see this week as an opportune moment to lower the temperature with Beijing and stabilize a relationship in free-fall. Xi, meanwhile, is arguably in worse shape, with China's economy slumping, investor capital fleeing the country, and the deep damage wrought by Beijing's draconian mishandling of the pandemic still being measured.

Biden may face a complicated election cycle ahead, but Xi, who has rearranged China's one-party state around his indefinite (and possibly lifetime) rule, needs the summit to buttress his leadership credentials amid mounting scrutiny on his rule. To be sure, Xi is firmly ensconced in power, but growing internal pressures may lead the budding superpower down a more dangerous path, argued Minxin Pei, a political scientist focusing on China-U.S. ties at Claremont McKenna College.

"This is like a chronic disease. It's not a heart attack," Pei told my colleague Lily Kuo. "If things continue to go downhill, you will have a vicious cycle that is people start doubting his leadership more. His authority erodes even more, which means he will have even less influence over policy, and as a result he will become less secure."