A complicated relationship: Biden and Xi prepare for meeting

FILE - Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping and Vice President Joe Biden hold T-shirts students gave them at the International Studies Learning Center in South Gate, Calif., Feb. 17, 2012. As President Joe Biden and Xi Jinping prepare to hold their first summit on Monday, Nov. 15, the increasingly fractured U.S.-China relationship has demonstrated that the ability to connect on a personal level has its limits. Biden nonetheless believes there is value in a face-to-face meeting, even a virtual one like the two leaders will hold Monday evening. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)

Joe Biden and China’s Xi Jinping have slurped noodles together in Beijing. They’ve shared deep thoughts about the meaning of America during an exchange on the Tibetan plateau. They’ve gushed to U.S. business leaders about developing a sincere respect for each other.

The American president has held up his relationship with Xi as evidence of his heartfelt belief that good foreign policy starts with building strong personal relationships.

But as the two leaders prepare to hold their first presidential meeting on Monday, the troubled U.S.-China relationship is demonstrating that the power of one of Biden’s greatest professed strengths as a politician — the ability to connect — has its limits.

“When it comes to U.S.-China relations, the gaps are so big and the trend lines are so problematic that the personal touch can only go so far,” said Matthew Goodman, who served as an Asia adviser on the National Security Council in the Barack Obama and George W. Bush administrations.

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