Your Monday Briefing: Biden’s Asian Diplomacy
G20 leaders to meet
World leaders are gathering in Indonesia for the G20 summit, which begins tomorrow.
But first, President Biden and Xi Jinping, China’s top leader, will meet face to face later today for the first time since Biden took office. (They have a long history: The two met as vice presidents. After a 2011 meeting, Biden said he found Xi potentially difficult to manage: “I think we’ve got our hands full with this guy,” he told advisers.)
The meeting will test whether the leaders can halt a downward spiral in relations.
Biden is in a strong position. In defiance of historical precedent, Democrats will maintain control of the U.S. Senate after winning seats in Nevada and Arizona. “I know I’m coming in stronger,” Biden said of the elections, “but I don’t need that.”
And Xi has signaled friendliness. He told the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations that he wanted to “find the right way to get along,” and a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said that “the U.S. and China should move toward each other, managing and controlling disagreements in a proper way and promoting mutually beneficial cooperation.”
Analysis: “This is in a sense the first superpower summit of the Cold War Version 2.0,” said Evan Medeiros, who was Barack Obama’s top adviser on Asia-Pacific affairs.
Biden courts ASEAN nations
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations met last week in Cambodia.
President Biden appeared in person. He told leaders that the U.S. was committed to deepening “peace and prosperity throughout the region,” and he announced a series of initiatives in the region, including efforts to promote electric vehicle use, improve clean-water access and support female entrepreneurs.
But Biden’s efforts to counter China’s rise and promote human rights may face challenges. Cambodia’s government is increasingly suppressing democracy, which officials said Biden discussed. And many members of ASEAN are embracing economic ties with Beijing, despite China’s slowing growth.
At the summit, ASEAN leaders reiterated their strong ties with China while taking pains not to upset Biden. In a joint statement with China, Cambodia reiterated its support for the “One China Policy” — including opposition to independence for Taiwan.
Context: Before the summit, ASEAN elevated its relationship with the U.S. to what is called a comprehensive strategic partnership, putting it on the same footing as China and Australia.
India: The U.S. sees the world’s largest democracy as crucial to detaching global supply chains from the clutches of its unpredictable adversaries.
The city of Kherson is back under Ukrainian control, after more than eight months of Russian occupation.
The city’s infrastructure is severely damaged, and water, power and food are in short supply. The danger has not passed: Bomb squads are clearing explosives, and Russian soldiers may not have fully withdrawn. Still, the mood is infectious, our correspondents write. Residents celebrated, cheering as they embraced Ukrainian soldiers.
And the advance on Kherson may reinvigorate and energize Ukraine’s army. Some analysts predict a lull in fighting could come with a difficult winter, but Ukraine is showing no signs of stopping its advance or allowing the war to settle into a stalemate.
Analysis: The victory is a bitter blow to Russia. Just a few weeks ago, President Vladimir Putin declared the Kherson region a part of Russia forever. His proxy administrators tried to stamp out Ukrainian culture and language, but residents said the Russification efforts “just didn’t work.”
What’s next: In the east, the battle for Donetsk rages.
Art: Banksy unveiled a mural in Borodyanka, a town near Kyiv that was one of the first places hit by Russian airstrikes.
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In the early 1900s, a Japanese man moved to Washington State in search of a better life — but soon afterward the state banned “aliens” from leasing land. That’s when a member of the Yakama Nation allowed the man’s family, the Inabas, to farm a portion of his own land. After the U.S. government interned the Japanese American family, another Yakama man carved out a parcel so the Inabas could rebuild their farm.
Now, more than 100 years later, their bond remains strong, forged by farming and mutual aid through discrimination and hate.
Nepal’s rare success
Nepal is fighting deforestation. And it’s winning.
More than 40 years ago, the government gave large swaths of national forest to local communities in a radical effort to protect the trees. Now, community-managed forests account for more than a third of Nepal’s forest cover, which has grown by about 22 percent since 1988.
“When the forests were common property, people abused them,” an expert said. “Now, you’ve got the community saying, ‘No, you don’t go there!’ So, the trees are coming back.”
The challenge now is to protect this fragile recovery from the timber mafia, poachers and nature itself. Locals have also adapted: Many have moved on from subsistence farming to alternatives like beekeeping and profitable crops like dragon fruit and strawberries.