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The Inside Story - BIDEN-XI, APEC 2023 | Episode 118 TRANSCRIPT

The Inside Story - BIDEN-XI, APEC 2023 | Episode 118 THUMBNAIL horizontal
The Inside Story - BIDEN-XI, APEC 2023 | Episode 118 THUMBNAIL horizontal


The Inside Story: Biden – Xi APEC 2023

Episode 118 – November 16, 2023

Show Open:

This week on the Inside Story

It's the annual meeting of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation held this year in San Francisco and the stage is set for a high-level meeting between the US and China that's been one year in the making.

What's coming out of APEC?

Now... on the Inside Story... Biden-Xi... APEC 2023

The Inside Story:

ELIZABETH LEE, VOA Correspondent:

Welcome to The Inside Story I’m Elizabeth Lee reporting from San Francisco, California, the host city for this year’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders Week or APEC. This is the largest gathering of world leaders in this city since the creation of the United Nations 78 year ago. At the APEC annual forum of leaders from 21 economies, the U.S. is here to increase trade and grow economies across the region. But for the moment, all that is taking a back seat to a meeting of two world leaders.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, and U.S. President Joe Biden have not met face to face in about a year, but a lot has happened. Tensions have been on the rise between the two nations, thanks to events like the shooting down of a Chinese Spy Balloon, and the lingering fallout from COVID.

VOA’s Anita Powell has more details.

ANITA POWELL, VOA White House Correspondent:

A historic meeting of East and West, after 12 months of intense drama and diplomacy between Beijing and Washington.

The White House chose this venue outside of San Francisco for this symbolic visit covering a range of key issues, including Taiwan – the self-governing island that China claims – the resumption of military communications, touchy trade disagreements, the origination of fentanyl ingredients in China, and human rights issues.

Biden said he was candid on these tough issues.

Xi said the two nations are inextricably linked.

Xi Jinping, Chinese President:

For two large countries like China, the United States turning their back on each other is not an option. It is unrealistic for one side to remodel the other. And conflict and confrontation has unbearable consequences for both sides.


So did the presidents of the world’s two most powerful nations manage to paper over the cracks in their relationship?

Biden spoke to the press afterward. Xi, as is his habit, did not.

U.S. President Joe Biden:

I welcome the positive steps we've taken today. And it's important for the world to see that we're implementing the approach in the best traditions of American diplomacy. We're talking to our competitors and the key — and just just talking just bluntly with one another, so there's no misunderstanding — as a key element of maintaining global stability and delivery to the American people.


But, in response to a shouted question, he reiterated a stance that is likely to upset Beijing: That he believes Xi is a dictator.

U.S. President Joe Biden:

He is. He is a dictator.


Many watching this meeting said they weren’t expecting major results but are glad the two are talking.

Anwar Ibrahim, Malaysia Prime Minister:

This engagement, for example, between President Biden and Xi Jinping, to me it is critical because it should give a clear message that we are here to be able to work together and trust each other to resolve serious problems: climate, issues in Ukraine or Gaza. There are too many contentious issues in the world and you must try and engage.


Biden said he and Xi will continue to communicate and cooperate. The world, he said, expects it

Anita Powell, VOA News, Woodside, California.


Observers say this month’s APEC summit convenes against a backdrop of unprecedent global turmoil. And while discussions from the regional economic forum are non-binding, they can lay more concrete foundations for future agreements. Here are the details on this year’s APEC agenda and what’s at stake.

From the Israel-Hamas conflict, to war in Ukraine, this year’s APEC meeting of world leaders is unlike any other in recent history.

Ali Wyne, Eurasia Group Senior Analyst:

It’s significant and arguably unprecedented. We have systemic instability right now the likes of which we probably haven’t seen since the end of the cold war.


There are also the potential economic ripple effects of these conflicts.

Ali Wyne, Eurasia Group Senior Analyst:

There’s an arc of instability and it’s an arc of instability that connects regions through supply chains – that connects regions through a variety of other channels and it’s important to keep in mind, for all the talk about decoupling, de-risking, the global economy does remain substantially interdependent.


The 21 members of APEC not only differ in their opinions about the conflicts, there are also other sources of friction. There are territorial disagreements in the South China Sea and tensions continue between the U.S. and China. Against this backdrop, countries will try to find common ground and discuss non-binding topics, with an agenda set by the host country.

Against this backdrop, countries tried to find common ground and discussed non-binding topics, with an agenda set by the host country.

Matt Murray, U.S. Senior Official for APEC:

We've really focused on things like advancing a just energy transition in the Asia Pacific, advancing sustainable agri-food systems in the Asia Pacific, looking at sustainable and inclusive trade across the region…


Another area of concern: how to reduce supply chain risks, with lessons learned from the breakdown during the pandemic.

Robert Holleyman, Former Deputy U.S. Trade Representative:

I think what you will see is about sort of resilience redundancy to make sure that there's no one point of failure in the event of a pandemic.


For example, while the U.S. has been importing more goods from countries including Vietnam…

Christopher Tang, UCLA Business Professor:

Ultimately, many of the raw materials and also the components, they’re still made in China.


China-U.S. relations will continue to be watched by APEC members even after the APEC leaders’ meeting, at a time when public perception in many countries tend to skew toward the U.S., according to surveys conducted by Pew Research.

Laura Silver, Pew Research Center Associate Director:

The U.S. is also largely seen to take into account the interests of other countries more than China, and to be more likely to contribute to global peace and stability.

Ali Wyne, Eurasia Group Senior Analyst:

The United States and China are going to have to find a way to coexist. Unlike the cold war, which ended with the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Washington isn’t going anywhere, Beijing isn’t going anywhere, the competition will have its oscillations, but it’s a competition that isn’t going to have a definitive end.


In addition to China and the U.S., APEC economies make up approximately half the global trade and 60% of the world’s economy. And in an interconnected world, observers say leaders will need to transcend differences to combat issues such as climate change and food insecurity.

Activists have also gathered in San Francisco on the outskirts of the APEC meeting. They see this as an opportunity to get their voices heard in a series of planned protests.

Protesters are pounding the pavement… and raising their voices in hopes that the leaders from 21 Asia Pacific economies will hear what they have to say.

Some in large numbers with loud voices…

But in this case, a more personal protest in silence…

There are people here to speak out about the climate, the Israel-Hamas war, the conflict in Myanmar between the military rulers and ethnic groups...

Koko Ley is demonstrating against all the leaders of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, or APEC.

Koko Ley, Protester:

They are selling, they are selling arms to Burma, especially Russian – sell the arms, also China and Thailand and including India.


Some people are protesting because the meeting between President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping is an opportunity to highlight their voices.

Zheng Wei says the harsh COVID-19 measures in China was one of the reasons why he left China with his family.

Zheng Wei, Protester:

I came from Los Angeles to San Francisco to stand with other pro-democracy activists.


San Francisco’s mayor says the city supports the right of people to voice their opinions.

London Breed, San Francisco Mayor:

We want to make sure people know that we support peaceful protest, so any acts of violence or destruction of property will not be something that we would tolerate.


Security barriers have been set up with hundreds of extra law enforcement in town to ensure the safety of the world leaders as well as the activists.

Republican Representative Mike Gallagher is Chairman of the Select Committee on the Strategic Competition Between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party. He spoke with VOA about China, the Pacific region, and Taiwan. Here he is in his own words with a view from the United States Congress.

Rep. Mike Gallagher, Chairman, Select Committee on the Strategic Competition Between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party.

Increasingly, it looks like we have an excess of authoritarian powers that are arrayed against our interests, those of our allies. China is the dominant player in this partnership. Vladimir Putin is a junior partner. But increasingly, there's collaboration with Iran. These are murderous dictatorial regimes that are threatening our allies. Putin has obviously invaded Ukraine. Hamas has now attacked Israel killed over 30 Americans and it could not have done so without the longstanding financial and training support it's received from Iran. So this should be a wake-up call.

I don't believe those who say that it's an either-or choice between resources in Europe, resources in the Middle East or resources in the Indo Pacific. This should be an opportunity for us to revitalize and rebuild our defense industrial base, which we've neglected for too long to once again become the arsenal of democracy and deterrence. And if nothing else, to learn the lessons of the failure of deterrence in Ukraine and ensure that those failures are not repeated in the Indo Pacific region. And in my mind, the primary lesson is that hard power, American hard power gives us our best chance of deterring totalitarian aggression. And if we don't surge hard power to the Pacific now, before it's too late, we could see a PLA invasion of Taiwan, and it would have the potential to make the ongoing wars in Ukraine and Israel look timid in comparison.


Michael Froman was a U.S. Trade Representative during the Obama Administration and currently is president of the Council on Foreign Relations. He is also one of the speakers of the APEC CEO Summit. VOA spoke to Ambassador Froman during the week-long event.

Michael Froman, President, Council on Foreign Relations:

I think it's an important meeting between President Biden and President Xi, with the primary goal of stabilizing the relationship heading into 2024 thing both for bilateral purposes but also very importantly for the broader APEC region, the countries they're the economies they are wanting US and China to have some kind of modus vivendi, some kind of stable relationship, particularly in anticipation of Taiwan's election and in January, US election in November.

The more China exerts itself in the region, the more countries in the region want the US to be there to be engaged, to be committed, and to provide a balancing factor for China, not just from a security perspective, but also from a political and economic perspective.

There are many, many issues on which we disagree with China, including human rights issues, and we need to constantly make sure we're raising those issues with China in an appropriate manner, with the goal of trying to make progress on this issues.

I think it is important right now to focus on enhancing the deterrence factor in terms of providing Taiwan with the necessary support political and otherwise, in terms of organizing allies and partners in the region, to convey very clearly to China that our continued commitment to the One China policy to the peaceful resolution of this issue has to be paramount.

I think it's almost unthinkable the kind of disruption there would be both in terms of the impact on Taiwan, and its critical role in the semiconductor sector globally, but also the reaction of the rest of the world in terms of cutting off trade, trade, sanctions, other kinds of sanctions against China. So I'm hopeful that China understands that the threat of potential sanctions the economic impact of such an invasion should be a strong deterrent from them to take action.


We’ve seen APEC’s importance in geopolitics, but many member economies of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation-bloc may profit as some U.S. companies move production out of China under a practice known as “friendshoring.” Here’s VOA’s Jessica Stone explaining what that means.

JESSICA STONE, VOA Correspondent:

For decades, China has served as the world’s factory, as recently as 2020 contributing nearly double the total manufacturing output of the United States. Low wages, a well-developed infrastructure and government support all contributed to its success.

Rosemary Coates, president of Blue Silk Consulting, a global supply chain consulting firm, says these days many CEOs don’t see China as a factory … but as a risk. And they’re willing to pay more to avoid it.

Rosemary Coates, Blue Silk Consulting:

Now, the executives that I'm working with not only look at dollars and cents, but they're evaluating global risk, geopolitical risk, they're evaluating their markets, where in the world are they?”


Coates says the combination of the pandemic supply chain disruption and Beijing’s zero-covid shutdowns has prompted some American executives to consider changing the way they look at manufacturing, choosing to work with countries that have a solid allied relationship with the U.S.

It’s a trend, known as “friend shoring.” And it’s a policy taking root among some of the 21 members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, or APEC.

Bloomberg data shows that cost-conscious U.S. apparel-makers started moving out of China into Vietnam, Bangladesh and Indonesia even before trade tensions with Beijing began in 2017. In the CHIPS Act of 2022, the Biden administration offered $500 million over five years to help modernize and secure new semiconductor supply chains.

Janet Yellen, US Treasury Secretary:

We’re starting to see the impacts in the data. Across sectors from auto parts to electronics, the U.S. is importing more from key partners like India and Vietnam, as well as from Mexico, and is less dependent on one single country, in this case, China.


Last month, semi-conductor maker Amkor Technology announced a new test and assembly plant in Vietnam.

Likewise, Synopsys and Marvell have announced new semiconductor design centers there.

Shoemaker Nike has also steadily shifted production from China to Southeast Asia.

Matt Pottinger, deputy national security adviser during the Trump administration, says it’s the culmination of decades of US investment in the region.

Matt Pottinger, Former US Deputy National Security Adviser:

The United States is deeply invested to the tune of well over a trillion dollars in in that stock of investment that that has occurred over, over decades now.


But Steven Okun, CEO of the public affairs consultancy APAC Advisors, says not all of China’s neighbors are ready to welcome US companies and their factories.

Steven Okun, APAC Advisors CEO:

You may want to diversify out of China. You may want to say, 'I want to make my supply chain more resilient,' but where are you going to go, because you can’t take all of China and put it into Vietnam. You can’t put it into Indonesia. You can’t put it into India, So you are going to see some certainly some diversification to create these resilient supply chains, but there are natural checks on how much that can happen.


After all, say trade analysts, China’s spent years building its infrastructure, labor pool, and regulations to become the world’s factory. And it’s still the best place to make things for the Chinese market.

Jessica Stone VOA News.


Switching gears now to an entirely different part of the world for an update on the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza. Amid growing calls for a ceasefire between the warring parties, Israelis are thinking about what happens after the fighting ends. Community members along the Gaza border say they want to go home, but they also want to feel safe. Linda Gradstein reports from Jerusalem.


Kibbutz Kfar Aza and most of the other Israeli communities bordering Gaza have become ghost towns since October 7, when Hamas gunmen destroyed houses, killed about 1,200 Israelis and took about 240 hostages into Gaza.

Israel evacuated nearly 200,000 Israelis who were living near Gaza and resettled them in hotels and temporary housing. Most of the residents of these communities say they want to go home, but only if they are sure that what happened on October 7 can never happen again.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the only way to ensure the safety of Israeli citizens is to destroy Hamas completely and afterwards maintain Israeli security control in Gaza.

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Prime Minister:

Gaza will be demilitarized and there will no longer be a threat from the Gaza Strip to the State of Israel. And in order to ensure there will be no such threat, as long as needed, the IDF will continue to control security in the Gaza Strip to prevent terror from it.


As the civilian death toll in Gaza climbs, Israel is under growing pressure from its main ally, the United States, to do more to ease a worsening humanitarian crisis.

Antony Blinken, U.S. Secretary of State:

Far too many Palestinians have been killed, far too many have suffered these past weeks and we want to do everything possible to prevent harm to them and to maximize the assistance that gets to them.


While Israeli leaders do not oppose humanitarian aid for Gaza, they say there can be no cease-fire as long as 240 hostages are being held captive by Hamas. This is also a demand being made by the families of the hostages and their thousands of Israeli supporters. Analysts say a cease-fire would be a strategic mistake.

Michael Oren, Former Israeli Ambassador to U.S.:

A cease-fire for Israel simply means that Hamas wins, gets away with mass murder, and that Israel loses. We won’t be able to restore the security to our territory, nor will we be able to restore our deterrence power in the region. Our enemies will internalize that every time they hit us and we go to defend ourselves, the international community will tie our hands with a cease-fire.


But eventually the fighting will end, and someone will have to be in charge of rebuilding Gaza and running life for its 2.3 million residents.

The U.S. says it envisions that the Palestinian Authority, which now governs the West Bank, will eventually take over in Gaza. But observers say the Palestinian Authority is seen as weak and corrupt by a majority of Palestinians. Netanyahu also opposes putting the PA in charge of Gaza.

Analysts say a transitional solution may be found with some kind of international governing authority.

Avi Melamed, Middle East Security Analyst, Male:

It will take time until you will build a strong sovereignty on the ground, a local power. Because Israel basically says we don’t want to rule Gaza Strip, we don’t want to stay in Gaza Strip. The international community, the United States also says we don’t see a reoccupation of Gaza. Meaning that in the end of the day Gaza Strip has to be ruled by Palestinians, but it will take time until we can create or encourage or support and build the scaffold for a local power in Gaza.


For now, the heavy fighting continues in Gaza, with rising casualties on both sides and no end in sight.

Linda Gradstein, VOA News, Jerusalem.


The southernmost town in Israel, Eliat (eh-LAT), became one of the main hubs for evacuees. Theu are from areas under rocket barrage from Gaza since Hamas’s October seventh attack on Israel. Now, the town has become the target of drone and missile strikes. VOA’s Natasha Mozogovaya reports.


When sirens warn of a rocket attack, Israelis in the southern town of Eilat have 30 seconds to get to a shelter. But last week, just before a drone crashed into a school, there was no siren – just a whirring noise.

Twelve-year-old Gal Harari says most students had already left the building, but about 40 remained for after-school activities.

Gal Harari, Eilat Resident:

We were preparing in the past few days. We had a lot of drills. So, the students knew what to do. We were lucky that nobody got hurt. It was a real miracle.


The drone, which Israel Defense Forces say came from Syria, damaged the building. There were no injuries.

The Israeli resort city of Eilat was supposed to become a safe shelter for over 60,000 people evacuated from towns and villages in southern Israel that were under rocket attacks from Gaza. Yet, this city became the target of ballistic missiles fired by Houthi rebels from Yemen and also drones launched from Syria. One of those drones crashed into the elementary school building right behind me.

Gal’s mother, Sharon Harari, says she used to tell her daughter the school is the safest place, because their family home doesn’t have a shelter.

Sharon Harari, Eilat Resident:

I really thought that it was the safest place, and that the girls need to go to the routine of studies alongside the war and continue their lives. But, unfortunately, it didn’t happen because there was no siren and no alert. And if this happened, anything could happen.


She says the conflict is taking its toll on the children.

Sharon Harari, Eilat Resident:

Even when the kid is not physically hurt, he is psychologically hurt. And the kids here, of all ages, are scared. They don’t sleep at night, they are afraid to go to the restroom by themselves, they are not going to play outside. Even though it looks pastoral with the sea and everything, it’s all very pretty, and we are trying hard, but we are scared.


Last week, the Israel Defense Forces said its long-range Arrow air defense system had intercepted a surface-to-surface missile over the Red Sea, launched toward Eilat. The IDF did not say who was behind the missile, although Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels claimed firing ballistic missiles toward southern Israel.

Dorin Rai’s family is among the survivors of the October 7 attack on Kibbutz Nir Oz by Hamas, a U.S.-designated terror organization. About one-fourth of the community of 400 people were among the victims: at least 20 people were killed and more than 70 kidnapped.

She says Hamas was inside her family’s home but couldn’t break into the fortified room where she, her husband and their three kids were hiding, holding the door for eight hours. The family evacuated to Eilat.

For the surviving Nir Oz members, it will be years before they can return to their kibbutz, if they decide to.

Dorin Rai, Evacuated to Eilat:

There is a plan that we go together to some place with buildings that is very different from our life. for two or three years. In the end, we are supposed to come back to the kibbutz and renew it. I don’t know if I come back. Actually, I want to say that I don’t come back, because my kids are very scared, and also me and my husband, we promised them all our lives, don’t be scared, the soldiers (are) here, they are working very hard for us. They will never let something happen.


On October 7th, she says, nobody came. Natasha Mozgovaya, VOA News, Eilat, Israel.


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That’s all for now.

Follow us on Instagram and Facebook at VOA News. Follow me on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, at E Lee TV One Catch up on past episodes with our free streaming service, VOA Plus. I’m Elizabeth Lee in San Francisco. We’ll see you next week for The Inside Story.