California hosts a key moment for U.S.-China relations. How do Asian-Americans feel about it?

Good morning. It’s Thursday, Nov. 16. Here’s what you need to know to start your day.

California hosts a key moment for U.S.-China relations

The Bay Area is the stage this week for what could be a marked improvement in U.S.-China relations.

President Biden met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Silicon Valley, as Xi and other world leaders gather for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in San Francisco. Both men vowed to work toward easing tensions between the two superpowers.

“For two large countries like China and the United States, turning their back on each other is not an option,” Xi told Biden, The Times’ Courtney Subramanian, Tracy Wilkinson and Laurel Rosenhall reported. Biden told Xi clear communication between them was key to “ensure that competition does not veer into conflict.”

Their meeting got off on a hopeful note, but there will likely be some hard talk ahead, as my colleagues explained:

“The pair were expected to discuss the long-standing disagreements, including Taiwan’s sovereignty, China’s nuclear arsenal build-up and provocations in the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait, and U.S. export controls on semiconductors and other advanced technologies.”

As the city prepared for the summit last week, demonstrators — many of them Asian-American — took to the streets, protesting Xi’s visit and the event itself.

Some Asian-Americans in California, who account for about 16% of the state’s population, view this week’s talks and the broader summit as extremely consequential. Roughly one-third of all people of Asian heritage in the U.S. live in California, according to U.S. census data.

Times state politics reporter Queenie Wong spoke with Asian Americans in San Francisco, who expressed mixed feelings about the meeting and how it might affect life for them and for Asians overseas.

“With rising tensions between the U.S. and China since the COVID-19 pandemic and disputes over trade and human rights, some Asian Americans said mending the fraught relationship between the two countries could help dial down rhetoric fueling anti-Asian hate,” she wrote. “At the same time, Asian Americans say they worry that opening up more trade between the two countries could lead to more low-wage workers being exploited and harm the environment.”

Some view the high-profile meeting as a way to ease those tensions, while others view it as insignificant to the normal lives of Asian Americans.

“It’s not like President Xi is coming to have dim sum in Chinatown with everyone,” Joyce Lam, political director of the Chinese Progressive Assn., told Queenie. “It continues to feel as if they’re removed and distant to everyday people.”

About 52% of Asian Americans have an unfavorable view of China, according to a survey published this year by the Pew Research Center. Chinese Americans born in the U.S. reported more unfavorable opinions of China compared to their views of the U.S., Taiwan, Japan and South Korea.

Lastly, since this is the newsletter that it is, it is my duty to note that U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen made what many consider an essential California stop Tuesday — she grabbed lunch at In-N-Out before meeting President Xi at the airport (Business Insider got the scoop on what she ordered, if you’re curious).

Today’s top stories

The 10 Freeway days after a large pallet fire burned below.

(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

I-10 fire

War in the Middle East

  • Across the University of California, scores of students supporting both Israel and Palestine are reporting harassment, intimidation and profound anxiety over their safety — and raising challenging questions for administrators over the line between free speech and unacceptable behavior.
  • Jewish parents called on the Los Angeles Board of Education to take concrete steps to prevent antisemitism on local campuses, echoing a call for sensitivity and understanding that Muslim parents made several weeks earlier.
  • For California’s Palestinian American small-business owners, the last month has brought harassment as well as devastating news from abroad, but also, at times, a rush of new customers eager to show support.

Weather and climate

More big stories

  • Los Angeles County has confirmed its first flu death of the season, and health officials are reminding residents to get vaccinated.
  • The Los Angeles City Council signed off on a proposal Tuesday that will allow landlords to raise rents on rent-stabilized units next year by 4% — spurning calls from some tenant advocates to extend a freeze.
  • The Los Angeles Police Department is investigating whether several men were initially turned away at a police station when they tried to a report that someone paid them to dispose of human remains.
  • Authorities arrested an arson suspect in connection with a dozen or more fires across Los Angeles’ Boyle Heights and Chinatown neighborhoods early Wednesday.
  • Robert Philibosian, the former L.A. County district attorney who oversaw the prosecution in the controversial McMartin Preschool case and later served as legal commentator in the criminal case against O.J. Simpson, died at the age of 83.
  • Warner Bros. Discovery will permit the director of “Coyote vs. Acme” to shop the completed movie to other distributors, reversing a decision to shelve it after the studio giant received public backlash.

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Today’s great reads

A woman listens to another woman speak while standing on a sidewalk

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Babies are losing their lives to a preventable illness. Her job is stopping it. This L.A. County investigator is working to track down a crucial set of patients who have slipped away from the health system: Women of childbearing age who have tested positive for syphilis.

Other great reads

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For your downtime

Photos of getty gardens, observatory, statue, gondolier, and Swingers Coffee Shop

(Los Angeles Times photo illustration; Photos by Julia Carmel)

Going out

Staying in

And finally … from our archives

Pop duo Milli Vanilli in berets and leather jackets

The pop duo Milli Vanilli, comprised of Fab Morvan, left, and Rob Pilatus, the subject of the Paramount+ documentary Milli Vanilli, which streams on Paramount+ beginning Oct. 24, 2023.

(Ingrid Segeith / Paramount+)

On this day 33 years ago, Milli Vanilli’s Rob Pilatus admitted that neither he nor his partner Fab Morvan sang a note on the duo’s multimillion-selling 1988 album “Girl You Know It’s True.” The Times’ Chuck Philips wrote about the saga, which was part of a string of revelations that detailed behind-the-scenes tensions between the performers and their producer. The following week, the pop duo’s Grammy award for best new artist was revoked.

Three decades after the scandal was revealed, a new documentary on Paramount+ reframes the ordeal as a tragic story about the exploitation of artists — particularly Black artists — in the music industry.

Have a great day, from the Essential California team

Ryan Fonseca, reporter
Kevinisha Walker, multiplatform editor
Laura Blasey, assistant editor

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