In Washington, President Xi Jinping of China is basically thought-about a mysterious autocrat who has lengthy harbored a fatalistic view of his nation’s relationship with america.
However for a quick second on Wednesday, at a century-old gilded mansion within the hills of Northern California, President Biden handled Mr. Xi like simply one other automobile man.
“It’s a phenomenal car!” Mr. Biden stated as he walked the Chinese language chief to his automobile, an armored, 18-foot Hongqi sedan, after an extended day of diplomatic wrangling, in line with a video revealed by the state-run China World Tv Community.
“Present the president,” Mr. Xi stated by way of a translator, chuckling. Mr. Biden, whose love of muscle automobiles is so well-known that it has been skewered by the satirical information web site The Onion, peeked inside Mr. Xi’s automobile, then gestured to his personal journey, a squat armored Cadillac constructed like a rolling bunker.
“ what they name that automobile?” Mr. Biden requested Mr. Xi. “They name it ‘The Beast.’”
Amid world tumult and simmering tensions between america and China, the 2 took time of their first assembly in a yr to alternate the kind of awkward pleasantries that adversarial leaders deploy when they’re making an attempt to make good.
Mr. Biden wished Mr. Xi’s spouse a cheerful birthday. Mr. Xi replied with embarrassment that he had forgotten her birthday was approaching as a result of he had been working a lot. At one other level, Mr. Biden brandished an image of a youthful Mr. Xi standing on the Golden Gate Bridge.
“I stated, ‘I needed to point out you an image,’” Mr. Biden stated Wednesday night at a reception for leaders of the Asia-Pacific Financial Cooperation summit that Mr. Xi didn’t attend. “He stated, ‘I like that image.’ Properly, he was translated to say, ‘I like that image.’” At a high-dollar dinner throughout city, Mr. Xi hinted that big pandas, which he referred to as “envoys of friendship” between the 2 international locations, might be returning to america. Just one U.S. zoo is left with a pair after Smithsonian’s Nationwide Zoo in Washington returned two getting old grownup pandas and their cub to China earlier this month as beforehand agreed.
Mr. Biden finally pierced the “Kumbaya” second by telling reporters after the fastidiously coordinated summit that he nonetheless thought-about the Chinese language chief a dictator. Mao Ning, a spokeswoman for the Chinese language international ministry, referred to as Mr. Biden’s remark “extraordinarily flawed.”
Coping with leaders who’ve unsavory politics is a part of presidential diplomacy. Mr. Biden’s predecessor, Donald J. Trump, loved buddying up with such leaders — as soon as in a pleasant summit with Vladimir V. Putin of Russia in Helsinki, and thrice in conferences with the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, whose high secret letters he saved stashed in a field of labeled paperwork at his Mar-a-Lago property in Florida.
In 2009, President Barack Obama, in search of a peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians, invited the autocratic Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak to the White Home. (He referred to as for Mr. Mubarak’s ouster two years later, through the Arab Spring rebellion.) In 1982, President Ronald Reagan honored Suharto, the Indonesian president who had led a bloodbath of some 400,000 members of an opposition social gathering, on the White Home for a state dinner.
In coping with Mr. Xi and different leaders he has recognized for years, Mr. Biden adopts a mode rooted in nostalgia with out letting reminiscences cloud his imaginative and prescient. He stated he would “belief however confirm” the developments that got here from the summit, which embody curbing the circulate of the chemical precursors for fentanyl and ensuring the militaries of the 2 superpowers are overtly speaking.
Regardless of the nice and cozy gestures, Mr. Biden nonetheless believes he’s coping with a dictator, as he informed a reporter: “I imply, he’s a dictator within the sense that he’s a man who runs a rustic that — it’s a Communist nation that’s primarily based on a type of authorities completely completely different than ours.”
The remark incensed some Chinese language officers, nevertheless it didn’t appear to register with Mr. Xi, who got here to america to courtroom American funding in his nation at a time of excessive unemployment and low development. (He nonetheless supplied the pandas, in any case.) Mr. Xi has additionally collected tokens of affection throughout his journey to California, together with a Golden State Warriors jersey introduced by Gov. Gavin Newsom.
However in the long run, automobile discuss and sports activities merchandise might solely go to this point to deal with the deep divisions between the 2 international locations.
On Thursday, the 2 leaders got here face-to-face once more after they posed for a gaggle picture on the convention — all smiles — after which participated in a planning session associated to local weather change. Throughout that occasion, Mr. Biden stated that “the impacts of local weather change are being felt essentially the most by these international locations that contribute the least to the issue, together with growing international locations,” and spoke at size about what america was doing to fight the issue.
Whereas Biden spoke, Mr. Xi spent a number of minutes gazing into the gap.