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President Joe Biden shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, in California, on Nov. 15, 2023.

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Last dance with China?​

Slide to the right.
Slide to the left.
And … pivot.

The diplomatic dance, dubbed “the pivot” by President Barack Obama back in 2011, is all the rage again in San Francisco, where 21 countries have gathered for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC), and this year everyone is watching one dysfunctional couple on the dance floor: Biden and Xi.

The original Obama pivot was about increasing US influence in the Asia Pacific — read: pushing back on growing Chinese influence, military might, and Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative – and it also meant pivoting away from places like the Middle East. So, choreographically speaking, it was a step from the Middle East to a bigger step to the Far East, as it were, and it caused friction with China. But the steps are more complicated today.

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President Joe Biden gives thumbs-up as he walks with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation in California on Nov. 15, 2023.

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Biden calls Xi a dictator

Joe Biden and Xi Jinping spent four hours together on Wednesday, coming to agreements on curbing fentanyl production and improving military communication. But Biden referred to the Chinese leader as a “dictator” in a press conference afterward, which suggests there are limits to the rapprochement.

The two men met on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in San Francisco, Calif., with both sides having signaled a desire for better cooperation beforehand. It was the first meeting between them in more than a year and came amid historically high tensions. Their long chat and new agreements suggested an easing of tensions, but Biden’s off-the-cuff remark has irked the Chinese.

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Logos of FTX and Binance, crypto exchange competitors.


What We're Watching: Crypto chaos, China-El Salvador trade, inflation across the Atlantic, Biden-Xi meeting

Is this crypto’s Lehman moment?

The crypto market’s bad run got even worse this week after FTX, a major crypto exchange, imploded. Headed by billionaire crypto-star Sam Bankman-Fried, FTX was revealed to be in a dire financial position earlier this week, and Binance, the largest exchange and an FTX competitor, considered bailing FTX out, but dropped the idea at the eleventh hour when it became clear FTX was insolvent and its customers couldn’t withdraw assets. Federal investigators are now looking at Bankman-Fried to find out whether his company violated financial regulations. Not only did Bankman-Fried lose more than 90% of his $16 billion fortune in mere days, but the news also sent the broader crypto and stock markets into a tailspin. Bankman-Fried, a big Democratic donor, had been making inroads in recent months with lawmakers on Capitol Hill to shape regulation with favorable terms for the crypto industry. But lawmakers and other crypto lobbyists will now want to distance themselves from the crypto king facing serious allegations of financial impropriety.

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