California Governor Gavin Newsom, a prominent Biden campaign surrogate, welcomed him at the airport. Newsom, who was previously considered a potential presidential candidate, recently returned from his own meeting with Xi in Beijing. He is also hosting a significant fundraiser for Biden's campaign, alongside Vice President Kamala Harris.
Accompanying Newsom in welcoming Biden at San Francisco International Airport were his wife Jennifer, city mayor London Breed, and Rep. Kevin Mullin (D-Calif.). Prior to his departure from the White House, the President briefly addressed the strained U.S.-China relationship, advocating for a return to a 'normal course of corresponding.' He stated, 'We’re not trying to decouple from China. What we’re trying to do is change the relationship for the better.'
The meeting with Xi is the highlight of Biden's four-day visit to San Francisco, where leaders from the 21 economies that constitute the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum are convening for their annual summit. As the president's motorcade journeyed from the airport to his downtown accommodation, hundreds of people greeted him with cheers, waving both Chinese and American flags.
The U.S.-China relationship has been strained for several months, but the White House is hopeful that the robust U.S. economy and decreasing unemployment rates will lend credibility to Biden's discussions with other leaders. White House national security spokesman John Kirby stated on the flight west, 'The President really feels we’ve got the wind at our back here.'
Kirby also revealed during a press briefing on Tuesday that Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad had used tunnels beneath hospitals in Gaza to hide military operations and hold hostages. This marked the first time the Middle East conflict was expected to influence the economic discussions attracting world leaders to San Francisco.
While in San Francisco, Biden is also expected to attend a fundraiser for his re-election campaign on Tuesday night and hold a bilateral meeting with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. However, his agenda extends beyond the Asia-Pacific issues. He will also strive to prevent the Israel-Hamas war from escalating into a broader conflict and persuade Republican lawmakers to continue investing billions in the costly Ukrainian effort to resist Russia's nearly 21-month old invasion.
'President Biden this coming week will be doing a lot more than just meeting with President Xi,' White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters on Monday. He added that Biden would present his economic vision for the region, argue that the U.S. is 'the very eminent driver' for sustainable economic growth in the Asia-Pacific, and emphasize the region's importance to U.S. economic growth.
Meanwhile, in Washington, Speaker Mike Johnson's plan to avert a government shutdown faces a crucial vote on Tuesday. He is attempting to rally Republican support for a 'clean' two-step continuing resolution, or 'CR,' that would maintain federal funding levels into early next year. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, the top Democrat in Congress, tentatively welcomed the proposal on Monday.
However, House Republican hardliners are threatening to use procedural roadblocks to halt the bill's progress. If it passes both chambers of Congress, Biden must still sign it into law. The deadline to fund the government is midnight Friday.