Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton thinks Chinese President Xi Jinping will find President Joe Biden to be “a receptive partner” on issues such as climate change when the two leaders meet in California next week to discuss ways in which the U.S. and China can cooperate.
“It certainly is a confidence-building opportunity,” Clinton said during the Bloomberg New Economy Forum in Singapore on Wednesday.
“There has not been as much interaction until relatively recently between the Chinese and the United States government,” Clinton continued via video link. “There has been a real chill coming from China about American businesses inside China, and there are, of course, political pressures against China within our own political system.”
“This meeting is a terrific opportunity to try to reset the table, to try to create some opening,” she said. “But it has to be followed up on with a lot more interactions.”
The progressive Democrat praised Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and others for their trips in recent weeks to China.
“Nothing substitutes for the effort being made to have those kinds of meetings about strategic and economic concerns,” Clinton said. “I think a lot of what happens in the future depends on what Xi Jinping’s goals are.”
She credited such regular meetings for the “more positive” relations between the two nations when she was Secretary of State, but noted that Xi’s “chilling” refusal to leave office “creates a lot of challenges.”
“Part of the reason things were somewhat more positive when I was there – and we had a very regular set of meetings – was because Hu Jintao was a Chinese leader who decided he would not stay for life,” she explained. “So there would be a constant renewing of both the Chinese government, and through that, the American relationship.”
In March, Xi “was awarded a third five-year term as the nation’s president Friday, putting him on track to stay in power for life at a time of severe economic challenges and rising tensions with the U.S. and others,” the Associated Press reported at the time.
“Xi, 69, had himself named to a third five-year term as party general secretary in October, breaking with a tradition under which Chinese leaders handed over power once a decade,” according to the outlet. “A two-term limit on the figurehead presidency was deleted from the Chinese Constitution earlier, prompting suggestions he might stay in power for life.”
“Once Xi decides to stay in office for life, that creates a lot of challenges within their own system,” Clinton said. “And I think we’re seeing some of that with the removal of top officials, some of the economic problems in the Chinese economy, but it also creates the kind of chilling effect in terms of relations. How do you deal with somebody who’s not going to be held accountable?”
Concerning his upcoming meeting with Biden, Clinton hopes that Xi will see “that it is in China’s interest to dig in with President Biden, develop a platform for discussions, for problem-solving, look for ways to cooperate on, whether it is climate change or other matters that may be of mutual interest to us.”
“Really sending that signal,” she said. “I think he will find a receptive partner with President Biden if that is available.”