By JANIE HAR (Associated Press)
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping will meet at a historic country house and museum with lavish gardens for one-on-one talks aimed at improving relations between the two superpowers.
The two leaders will meet Wednesday at Filoli, an isolated estate along the coastal mountain range of Northern California. It was built in 1917 as a private residence and later became a National Trust for Historic Preservation site. The farm is about 25 miles (40 kilometers) south of San Francisco, where leaders will gather this week for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum leaders’ conference.
The location of the meeting was revealed by three senior administration officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a matter with security implications.
Bonnie Glaser, managing director of the German Marshall Fund’s Indo-Pacific program, said the location likely met Xi’s expectations of a private meeting with Biden outside the main summit venue.
“It appears to be a quiet, secluded estate, where Biden and Xi can have an intimate conversation in a relaxed atmosphere,” Glaser said. “Importantly, the venue is not connected to the APEC summit, making it appear that the two leaders are holding a bilateral summit separate from the multilateral APEC summit.”
Observers of China’s political elite have said Xi wants to project himself to his domestic audience as Biden’s equal and as someone who commands the respect of an American president.
The estate is more than 650 acres (2.6 square kilometers), including a Georgian Revival-style mansion and an English Renaissance-style formal garden. The mansion and grounds are open daily, but the site is currently closed for three days for Christmas decorating, its website says.
“A place like this allows them to get away, not just from the media, but from a lot of other things that fuel conflict,” said Jeremi Suri, a professor of public affairs and history at the University of Texas at Austin. “If you like each other, you’ll probably start to trust each other and communicate better.”
Suri says this is what happened with US President Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union before its dissolution. The two met at a secluded castle in Reykjavik in 1986, sitting by a fireplace and walking outdoors wearing thick coats, forging a relationship, Suri said.
“We need leaders who can overcome fear,” he said.
William Bowers Bourn II, a San Francisco socialite, named Filoli taking the first two letters of keywords from his personal credo, according to the estate’s website: “Fight for a just cause. Love your neighbor. He lives a good life.”
The venue is available for private events, weddings and commercial filming and photography. The gardens appear in the Jennifer Lopez film “The Wedding Planner.”
AP writers Didi Tang and Colleen Long in San Francisco and Zeke Miller and Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.