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December 10, 2022 12:01 am

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In an Era of Confrontation, Biden and Xi Seek to Set Terms


Their first in-person presidential meeting, coming after both warned of deepening military, economic and diplomatic rivalry, will show how they address a range of U.S.-China tensions.

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President Biden in Egypt on Friday.

President Biden in Egypt on Friday.Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

Nov. 12, 2022Updated 6:04 p.m. ET

Just weeks after President Biden and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, laid out competing visions of how the United States and China are vying for military, technological and political pre-eminence, their first face-to-face meeting as top leaders will test whether they can halt a downward spiral that has taken relations to the lowest level since President Nixon began the opening to Beijing half a century ago.

Their scheduled meeting Monday in Indonesia will take place months after China brandished its military potential to choke off Taiwan, and the United States imposed a series of export controls devised to hobble China’s ability to produce the most advanced computer chips — necessary for its newest military equipment and crucial to competing in sectors like artificial intelligence and quantum computing.

Compounding the tension is Beijing’s partnership with Moscow, which has remained steadfast even after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Yet that relationship, denounced by the Biden administration, is so opaque that U.S. officials disagree on its true nature.

Whether it’s a partnership of convenience or a robust alliance, Beijing and Moscow share a growing interest in frustrating the American agenda, many in Washington believe. In turn, many in China see the combination of the U.S. export controls and NATO support for Ukraine as a foreshadowing of how Washington could try to contain China, and stymie its claims to Taiwan, a self-ruled island.

Xi Jinping of China and Vladimir V. Putin of Russia at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, in September.Credit…Sergei Bobylyov/Sputnik, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“This is in a sense the first superpower summit of the Cold War Version 2.0,” said Evan S. Medeiros, a Georgetown University professor who was President Obama’s top adviser on Asia-Pacific affairs. “Will both leaders discuss, even implicitly, the terms of coexistence amid competition? Or, by default, will they let loose the dogs of unconstrained rivalry?”

Tamping down expectations about the summit with Mr. Xi, American officials recently told reporters that they expected no joint statement on points of agreement to emerge. Still, Washington will dissect what Mr. Xi says publicly and privately, especially about Russia, Ukraine and Taiwan.

This month, Mr. Xi told the visiting German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, that China opposes “the threat or use of nuclear weapons,” an oblique but unusually public reproach to the Russian president Vladimir V. Putin’s saber rattling with tactical nuclear weapons.

If Mr. Xi cannot say something similar with an American president next to him, one senior administration official noted, it will be telling. China sees Russia as a vital counterweight to Western power, and Mr. Xi may hesitate to criticize Mr. Putin in front of Mr. Biden.

“If Putin used nuclear weapons, he would become the public enemy of humankind, opposed by all countries, including China,” said Hu Wei, a foreign policy scholar in Shanghai. But, he added, “If Putin falls, the United States and the West will then focus on strategic containment of China.”

A Ukrainian soldier in a former Russian base in the Kherson region of Ukraine on Friday. China has declined to rebuke Russia for the invasion, but Mr. Xi has obliquely criticized Mr. Putin’s nuclear hints.Credit…Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

For American officials, the Xi-Putin relationship is a topic of internal debate. Colin Kahl, the No. 3 official in the Pentagon, told reporters Tuesday that Chinese leaders have “been much more willing to signal that this thing is edging toward an alliance as opposed to just a superficial partnership.” Mr. Biden seems doubtful. “I don’t think there’s a lot of respect that China has for Russia or for Putin,” he said the next day.

Mr. Xi and Mr. Biden have talked on the phone five times in the past 18 months. This will be different: For the first time since assuming the presidency, Mr. Biden will “sit in the same room with Xi Jinping, be direct and straightforward with him as he always is, and expect the same in return from Xi,” Jake Sullivan, the National Security Adviser, said at a White House briefing Thursday.

“There just is no substitute for this kind of leader-to-leader communication in navigating and managing such a consequential relationship,” Mr. Sullivan said.

During the past three decades, trips by American presidents to Beijing and Chinese presidents to Washington became relatively commonplace. Testy exchanges over disputes were often balanced by promises to cooperate on areas of mutual interest, whether climate change or containing North Korea’s nuclear program. For now, it is hard to imagine a meeting taking place in either capital, especially with China still under heavy Covid controls.

Summits on neutral ground, like this one in Bali ahead of the Group of 20 meeting of leaders, have an increasingly Cold War feel: more about managing potential conflict than finding common ground. The rancorous distrust means that even short-term stabilization and cooperation on shared challenges, like stopping pandemics, could be fragile.

A production line of circuit boards at a factory in Nantong, China, in September. New U.S. restrictions on selling semiconductor technology to China could slow its technological progress.Credit…Visual China Group, via Getty Images

Neither side calls it a Cold War, a term evoking a world divided between Western and Soviet camps bristling with nuclear arsenals. And the differences are real between that era and this one, with its vast trade flows and technological commerce between China and Western powers.

The Apple iPhone and many other staples of American life are assembled almost entirely in China. Instead of trying to build a formal bloc of allies as the Soviets did, Beijing has sought to influence nations through major projects that create dependency, including wiring them with Chinese-made communications networks.

Even so, the declarations surrounding Mr. Xi’s appointment to a third term and Mr. Biden’s new national security, defense and nuclear strategies have described an era of growing global uncertainty heightened by competition — economic, military, technological, political — between their countries.

The anxieties have been magnified by China’s plans to expand and modernize its still relatively limited nuclear arsenal to one that could reach at least 1,000 warheads by 2030, according to the Pentagon. China sees threats in American-led security initiatives, including proposals to help build nuclear-powered submarines for Australia.

“It may not be the Cold War, with a capital C and capital W, as in a replay of the U.S.-Soviet experience,” Professor Medeiros said. But, he added, “because of China’s substantial capabilities and its global reach, this cold war will be more challenging in many ways than the previous one.”

Chinese military helicopters off the shore of Fujian Province, just across the strait from Taiwan, during military drills in August.Credit…Hector Retamal/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The Biden administration last month issued extensive new restrictions on selling semiconductor technology to China, focusing on the multi-million dollar machines needed to make the chips with the smallest circuitry and the fastest speeds. It was a clear effort to slow China’s progress in one of the few technological areas where it is still playing catch up.

In a 48-page National Security Strategy document, Mr. Biden wrote that China “is the only country with both the intent to reshape the international order and, increasingly, the economic, diplomatic, military and technological power to advance that objective.” The U.S. National Defense Strategy paper, weeks later, declared that China “remains our most consequential strategic competitor for the coming decades.”

The stakes rose for the relationship after Mr. Xi, 69, secured a third five-year term as Communist Party leader in October, and set in place a resolutely loyal leadership lineup likely to keep him in power even longer than that. At the party congress that crowned Mr. Xi, he warned of an increasingly perilous world, where unnamed foes — implicitly, the United States and allies — were trying to “blackmail, contain, blockade, and exert maximum pressure on China.”

Since then, Mr. Xi and his officials have repeated similar warnings. Wearing camouflage to visit a People’s Liberation Army command center, Mr. Xi told China’s military to steel for the intensifying challenges. “Hostile forces” were bent on blocking China’s rise, Ding Xuexiang, a top aide to Mr. Xi, wrote in People’s Daily, the party’s main newspaper.

Mr. Xi, center, on a recent visit to a People’s Liberation Army command center, in a photo provided by Chinese state media.Credit…Li Gang/Xinhua, via Associated Press

“The United States regards our country as its main strategic rival and most severe long-term challenge, and is doing its utmost to contain us and beat us down,” said an article in Guangming Daily, another prominent party-run newspaper.

Mr. Xi’s speech to the congress last month suggested that his assessment of international trends has grown bleaker. That shift may reflect worries about the repercussions of the war in Ukraine, and vanished hopes that Mr. Biden would take a milder approach to China than the Trump administration did.

The Biden administration’s support for Taiwan has become a sore point.

In early August, China launched menacing military drills around Taiwan after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited the island as a show of support. Mr. Biden has suggested that the United States would support Taiwan militarily if China attempted to take it by force, firmer wording than Washington’s formal position. Each time he has talked about direct involvement in Taiwan’s defense, his aides have rushed to assure that policy has not changed, while not disputing Mr. Biden has made it less ambiguous.

“The difference between Biden and Trump is that Trump wanted to fight China single-handed,” said Mr. Hu, the foreign policy scholar. By contrast, he said, Mr. Biden “has attached particular importance to alliances in strategic competition with China.”

Mr. Sullivan, the national security adviser, indicated that the Biden administration would brief Taiwan on the results of the Xi meeting.

Celebrating Taiwan’s National Day at the home of the de facto Taiwanese ambassador in Washington last month.Credit…Valerie Plesch for The New York Times

Despite their differences, Mr. Biden and Mr. Xi want to avoid pent-up tensions exploding into a crisis that could wreak economic havoc.

“I’ve told him: I’m looking for competition, not — not conflict,” Mr. Biden told reporters at the White House on Wednesday about his relationship with Mr. Xi. Their ties go back more than a decade, to when both were vice presidents.

Mr. Biden said that he and Mr. Xi may discuss “what he believes to be in the critical national interests of China, what I know to be the critical interests of the United States, and to determine whether or not they conflict with one another. And if they do, how to resolve it and how to work it out.”

Ahead of the meeting, Mr. Xi has also put on a somewhat friendlier demeanor.

He told the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations that he wants to “find the right way to get along.” Zhao Lijian, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, repeated that point at a regular briefing on Friday, and said Beijing would defend its “sovereignty, security and development interests,” while adding that “the U.S. and China should move toward each other, managing and controlling disagreements in a proper way and promoting mutually beneficial cooperation.”

Mr. Xi wants to put China’s growth back on track after heavy blows from Covid restrictions and problems in the housing market. He also wants to prevent tighter rules on purchases of high-end technology, which could spook investors and slow his plans for upgrading the economy.

Mr. Xi is “preparing for a spectrum of tensions and conflict, but China is not going to fix all the vulnerabilities in its system — in the financial sector, exposure to the U.S. dollar system, exposure to tech dependencies — in just a few years,” said Andrew Small, author of “No Limits: The Inside Story of China’s War With the West.”

He added, “They want to prevent this from sliding too far and too fast, and this may be a moment to explore whether they can stabilize things.”

Claire Fu contributed reporting.

Selected Articles

‘Kindred spirits’ Biden, Scholz work to heal U.S.-German ties


German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and U.S. President Joe Biden attend a family photo opportunity at Schloss Elmau castle, during the G7 leaders summit near Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, June 26, 2022. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/Pool

SCHLOSS ELMAU, Germany, June 26 (Reuters) – Panned by critics for dragging his feet on Ukraine, called a “sulky liver sausage” by the Ukrainian ambassador, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Sunday won public praise from a man he has long privately admired: U.S. President Joe Biden.

Reaching over to touch Scholz’s arm as they sat at the start of a G7 meeting in the Bavarian Alps, Biden said it was “in no small part because of you” that the West had stuck together against Russia four months after the invasion of Ukraine.

The two men, who are from different political generations but both took office last year, have made common cause over Ukraine as they sought to heal ties that were sorely strained under Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump.

Both leaders have vowed to strengthen Ukraine’s armed forces, increase sanctions pressure on Moscow and counter surging food and energy prices that have undermined their popularity at home and tested their own domestic alliances.

At Sunday’s meeting, Biden pushed back against criticism of Scholz’s leadership, praising the chancellor for marshalling Europe’s response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. read more

“They are kindred spirits and they’re dealing with some of the same challenges,” said Steven Sokol, president of the American Council on Germany. “I could easily imagine there’s a bit of a bromance going on,” he said.

While privately expressing reservations about some other leaders, the 64-year-old Scholz speaks especially warmly of the U.S. president and sees the transatlantic relationship as a crucial pillar of German and European security.

He “has always looked very much to the USA,” according to one long-time friend and confidante.

The Social Democrat Scholz also values what he sees as Biden’s commitment to fighting for those left behind by globalisation and technological advances, a theme Scholz explored at length in his book “Land of Hope” in 2017.


For his part, Biden, 79, has lauded Germany for agreeing to boost its military spending by 100 million euros over the next decade, and overcoming resistance stemming from World War Two on providing weapons to Ukraine.

Berlin’s support for repeated rounds of sanctions against Russia, often against its own economic interests, has impressed U.S. officials who had braced for a more halting embrace.

Germany was “one of the countries where we wanted to really restore and rebuild the trust and the solidarity in that relationship and I think we’ve really been able to achieve that,” a senior U.S. administration official said.

“The warm and friendly words between the two, the president’s expression of trust in Scholz showed that we’ve been able to make progress on that goal, and achieve a lot of that close working relationship that we wanted.”

Biden’s administration has also welcomed Scholz’s rapid and unprompted decision to halt the Russian-led Nord Stream 2 pipeline, said one source familiar with the matter.

“Scholz had promised the president that if Russia further invaded Ukraine, the pipeline would be shut down,” the source said. “He did exactly what he said he would do, and that was deeply appreciated.”

The Trump years contrasted to the warm relationship that Scholz’s predecessor Angela Merkel forged with Barack Obama after initial friction from disclosures that the National Security Agency had tapped Merkel’s mobile phone.

Trump’s public and private pummeling of Berlin over the pipeline, its failure to raise military spending to meet NATO targets and its support of the Iran nuclear deal sent the partnership reeling.

Biden first met Scholz in Rome at the Group of 20 meeting in October, shortly before the German leader took office.

“Relations between the two administrations are unusually close”, said one German government source. “In fact – the higher you get in the hierarchy in Washington, the closer relations are to German government.”

There have been differences, to be sure, including lingering frustration in Berlin and other European capitals over the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan last August, a move seen as a “big mistake” that may have even encouraged Putin, according to German government sources.

Some in Washington meanwhile question Germany’s continued strong economic ties with China, echoing criticisms under Trump.

But on Sunday, Scholz was all smiles after Biden’s warm words: “It’s a good message that we all managed to stay united, which, obviously, Putin never expected.”

Reporting by Andrea Shalal and Andreas Rinke; editing by Matthias Williams and Raissa Kasolowsky

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Michael Novakhov - SharedNewsLinks℠

joint expeditionary force – Google Search

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Michael Novakhov - SharedNewsLinks℠

My #Opinion: Note the improvement in US German relationship. #Biden and #Scholz are good partners, with the same “#Weltanschauung”. They will rule the World for the sake of the #WesternCivilization, attacked by the aggressive and decaying #Russia, the remnant of the #GoldenHorde.

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My #Opinion: Note the improvement in US German relationship. #Biden and #Scholz are good partners, with the same “#Weltanschauung“. They will rule the World for the sake of the #WesternCivilization, attacked by the aggressive and decaying #Russia, the remnant of the #GoldenHorde


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My #Opinion: Note the improvement in US German relationship. #Biden and #Scholz are good partners, with the same “#Weltanschauung”. They will rule the World for the sake of the #WesternCivilization, attacked by the aggressive and decaying #Russia, the remnant of the #GoldenHorde.

My #Opinion: Note the improvement in US German relationship. #Biden and #Scholz are good partners, with the same “#Weltanschauung“. They will rule the World for the sake of the #WesternCivilization, attacked by the aggressive and decaying #Russia, the remnant of the #GoldenHorde.

— Michael Novakhov (@mikenov) November 12, 2022 

My #Opinion: Note the improvement in US German relationship. #Biden and #Scholz are good partners, with the same “#Weltanschauung“. They will rule the World for the sake of the #WesternCivilization, attacked by the aggressive and decaying #Russia, the remnant of the #GoldenHorde

Weltanschauung – Google Search

— Michael Novakhov (@mikenov) November 12, 2022

На данный момент невозможно прекратить войну в Украине дипломатическим путем, считает канцлер Германии Олаф Шольц. Он против прекращения огня на условиях России: “Мира под диктовку не будет”. Хроника DW

— DW на русском (@dw_russian) November 12, 2022

Not quite sure why England keeps changing colour through the Middle Ages in this video – but the Golden Horde and the Holy Roman Empire is worth watching…

— Rory Stewart (@RoryStewartUK) November 7, 2022 


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Computer chip ban signals new era as Biden, Xi meet


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‘Legalizing Homophobia’: Russia’s LGBT Community Braces For New Wave Of State-Sanctioned Discrimination


“Our ability to simply go out onto the street will be threatened, as well as our safety,” said Anna Kosvintseva, a web designer in the southern Russian city of Astrakhan, when asked about legislation currently making its way through parliament that would virtually ban any mention of same-sex relationships or transgender issues. “After all, we can’t expect help from anywhere or anyone.”

Many activists and people in Russia’s LGBT community link the draconian legislation with the country’s grinding war of aggression against neighboring Ukraine and the government’s efforts to rally broad support by insisting the country’s “traditional values” are under assault by “Satanists” at home and abroad.

“The war is not going well,” said Vsevolod Galkin, a photographer and director who formerly worked for the LGBT magazine Kvir in Moscow. “So they are trying to turn the public discourse to some sort of scandal, some sort of divisions. This isn’t the first time this has happened. We see it every seven years or so.”

“The bill is complete nonsense that the government is throwing like a bone to conservative-minded citizens to distract them from military mobilization and economic problems,” said Dina Nurm, a feminist activist from Kazan, capital of the Tatarstan region. “It is a new tool for denunciations.”

‘The Morality Of A Country At War’

President Vladimir Putin signed a law banning the “propagandizing of nontraditional sexual relationships to minors” in 2013. In addition, many LGBT activists have been targeted in recent years under Russia’s so-called “foreign agent” laws. Since the 2013 law was adopted, Russia has seen a dramatic spike in homophobic vigilante violence.

The proposed new legislation, which was given preliminary approval on October 27 by the State Duma – the lower house of Russia’s legislature – is expected to pass through parliament by the end of this month. It would radically expand the ban on “propaganda” of homosexual and transgender relations to all audiences. It would ban spreading information “that might foster in minors the desire to change their gender.” It would ban advertisements, films, books, art, and other materials hat “propagandize nontraditional sexual relations or desires.” Fines for violations would be significantly increased up to 400,000 rubles ($6,700).

“We have traditions, conscience, and an understanding of how we must think about children, families, the country, and how to preserve what was handed down to us by our parents,” said Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin just before the initial vote on the new law. He added that even more restrictions might be introduced to the bill before its second reading.

Everything besides “normal life,” Volodin added, “is sin, sodomy, and darkness, and our country will fight against it.”

Everything besides “normal life is sin, sodomy, and darkness, and our country will fight against it.”

The representative of the Russian Orthodox Church at the session said: “The morality of a country at war is a matter of our future victory. We have our own path of development, and we don’t need Europe’s nontraditional relations.”

On November 9, Putin signed a document titled The Foundations Of State Policy To Preserve And Strengthen Russian Traditional Spiritual And Moral Values. The text says: “This is a strategic planning document in the sphere of the national security of the Russian Federation.

“The Russian Federation considers its traditional values to be the foundation of Russian society, enabling it to defend and strengthen Russia’s sovereignty,” it reads.

‘I Will Continue Speaking Out’

Yelena, 35, lives with her wife — they were married three years ago in Portugal — in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk and volunteers at an organization that provides assistance to LGBT people. Like many of the people interviewed for this article, she asked that her identity be concealed out of safety concerns. She says the government is intentionally fostering homophobia.

“Most Russians aren’t homophobes…but in recent years at the political level they have whipped up such a hysteria around ‘other’ people that it is really getting scary,” Yelena said. “At any moment, a witch hunt could begin, and no one is going to defend you. So people are already living as unnoticeably as possible.”

“The bill is...a new tool for denunciations,” says Dina Nurm, a feminist activist from Kazan, capital of the Tatarstan region.

“The bill is…a new tool for denunciations,” says Dina Nurm, a feminist activist from Kazan, capital of the Tatarstan region.

Mikhail is an activist in the Volga River city of Samara who volunteers at several civic organizations providing assistance to LGBT people. He agrees that even in rural areas, many Russians are tolerant of gays as neighbors and members of their community.

“But the new law is aimed at preventing gays and lesbians from living openly and showing that they don’t pose any danger,” Mikhail said. “As a result, heterosexuals will interact less with gays or won’t know about their orientation. Over time, even for those who might be open to being tolerant, the LGBT community will be transformed into an enemy.”

Alla Chikinda, an LGBT activist in the Urals region city of Yekaterinburg, offered a similar take.

“Those who have been living more or less openly will shut themselves off, and those who have not yet come out, won’t,” she said. “People who support the LGBT community and donate to organizations or participate in joint projects, or simply openly proclaim their support, will stop doing so. This is the main danger of the law.”

‘I Have No Idea How To Continue’

Yulia Alyoshina, a woman in Siberia’s Altai region who was Russia’s first openly transgender politician, was barred from the ballot in a 2021 city council election in the regional capital, Barnaul. The day after the Duma backed the new bill in the first of three required votes, she announced her withdrawal from politics.

“I have no idea how to continue conducting public political activities as an openly transgender woman,” she said, adding that the LGBT community could expect “even more serious hostility” if the “discriminatory” new law is adopted.

Activist Aleksei Sergeyev at a rally against homophobia in St. Petersburg: “There have been many television talk shows and films equating gays and pedophiles.”

Activist Aleksei Sergeyev at a rally against homophobia in St. Petersburg: “There have been many television talk shows and films equating gays and pedophiles.”

LGBT citizens say they already see increased hostility on the Internet and in real life. Aleksei Sergeyev, an LGBT activist in St. Petersburg, said that after one local LGBT organization was prevented from holding its meetings in a community center, it resorted to meeting in a public park.

Aleksandra of Krasnodar

Aleksandra of Krasnodar

“They were attacked by young nationalists and one of them got a head injury,” Sergeyev said. “There have been many television talk shows and films equating gays and pedophiles.”

Aleksandra, a 20-year-old lesbian in the southern city of Krasnodar, said the new law will “legalize homophobia.”

“Queer people have become enemies and criminals in their own country,” she said. “But I will continue speaking out against homophobia. and I won’t conceal my orientation. I am who I am.”

Based on reporting by RFE/RL’s Idel.Realities, Siberia.Realities, and North.Realities