What did Biden say to Xi?

TO THE QUICK - Jerry Tundag - The Freeman

Roughly two weeks after their meeting in San Francisco during the APEC Summit only those in the highest echelons of power in both Washington and Beijing are presumed to know what US President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping talked about. Neither leader has divulged any details. And none of their subsequent actions suggests they are initiatives born of the same meeting.

And yet there has been a marked dissipation of “bang-and-clatter” in the South China Sea. Fewer Chinese harassments of Filipino supply ships and dangerous maneuvers and near-collisions of maritime assets from both parties. There has even been a palpable tone-down in the rhetoric that often accompanies all of these incidents.

The closest thing to a direct assurance by any of the two leaders that the world can have a Christmas and New Year as they have always had it was when the two leaders said there will be no war this year. On the other hand the lowering of tensions may have nothing to do with the talks at all. Commanders on the ground can sometimes grow “battle-weary” and just decide to cool their boots for a while.

Actually I already wrote on this subject as soon as Biden and Xi made the assurance of no war at least until December and at least in these parts. I am writing about it again because I want to reassure myself that indeed nothing has happened or is about to happen. Time, as we all very well know, is very precious. Nobody knows for sure what one minute can lead to in the next minute.

While the outcome of that meeting has most certainly been some for the tenacious peace, I cannot say it is a peace brought on by the equal initiatives of the protagonists in the overlapping South China Sea territorial claims. Xi met Philippine President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., but not with the other claimants. He also met Biden but Biden did not meet with Marcos.

Besides the APEC Summit, being the economic gathering that it is, it is not the proper venue to broker peace except maybe on the sidelines. And that is precisely what happened to Biden, Xi and Marcos. Biden and Xi met away from the big lights but were allowed substantially big time to discuss big things as what big leaders normally do.

Marcos did not have the same opportunity with Xi even if certainly with the prominence befitting an important world leader. This gives unwarranted impetus to uncomfortable scuttlebutt that Marcos was wandering around the venue (for a president, highly unlikely if you ask me) when he came upon Xi coming out of his meeting with Biden.

The scuttlebutt goes on to say that Marcos tried to strike casual chit-chat with the Chinese leader who responded with a benign smile on pursed lips, you know, just like Winnie. Marcos also allegedly tried to proffer a handshake but Xi kept his hands all the time behind his back, a polite --or was it?-- way of saying this was disallowed by protocol.

I do not know who the source of the story was but Marcos should hand-pick his team well. He needs a team of yes men like a hole in the head. He needs protocol officers who can tell him what to do and what not to do. Otherwise he does not need them at all. A president cannot be made to go wandering around trying to surreptitiously meet with other world leaders. He has ministers and protocol officers who can arrange one for him.

In the absence of any real cause for the loosening of tensions, perhaps the only clear indication that something is working are the joint naval patrols of the contested areas by the Philippines and several allied countries like Australia, Japan, France and, of course, the US. Force is often the language understood by most people especially when the language itself becomes ambiguous.

vuukle comment


  • Latest
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

Get Updated:

Signup for the News Round now

or sign in with