Chinese officials told the Wall Street Journal that they are making plans for president Xi Jinping to visit southeast Asia and meet his American counterpart Joe Biden in November.
If Xi Jinping attends the G20 leadership summit, which will be held in Indonesia’s Bali, it would mark the first time in the last two years that the Chinese president will be on an international trip.
Xi did not travel outside China due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
This is also the first time both leaders will be meeting in-person after Biden’s inauguration.
The preparations for the visit indicates that Xi is confident that he will smoothly transition into his third term as Chinese president and Communist Party chief at the twice-a-decade congress set to take place later this year.
He is expected to conclude the party congress first, following which he will attend the G20 leadership summit in Indonesia between November 15 and November 16.
Xi will attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Bangkok which will be held two days later.
The meeting between Joe Biden and Xi Jinping will be held on the sidelines of one of the two summits, people familiar with the developments told the Wall Street Journal.
Neither the White House or the Chinese foreign ministry confirmed or shared any details about the possibility of Xi and Biden meeting.
Xi visited Myanmar in January 2020, a week after which Chinese healthcare officials acknowledged that the Covid-19 outbreak in Wuhan turned severe. He briefly travelled to Hong Kong and Macau earlier this year.
Xi’s absence from world forums comes at a time when China’s relationship with the US has hit new lows.
The relationship deteriorated further when US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi travelled to Taiwan – which China saw as an affront to the One China policy it urges the world to follow and considers Taiwan to be an inalienable part of China.
The decision to leave Beijing could also have been made to strengthen the relationship between China and its immediate neighbours in southeast Asia. The US along with the Quad grouping and the IPEF is working to bolster its presence in the region as well as in the west Pacific.
Some see the meeting as a signal that China would ease the draconian restrictions it imposes on its residents in the name of Covid Zero policy. Under Covid Zero, there is not much reliance on vaccines and herd immunity but officials lay stress on strict quarantine measures and lockdowns.
These have impacted the Chinese economy but Xi is not ready to ease Covid Zero.
(with inputs from the Wall Street Journal)