WASHINGTON – The more than three-hour virtual talk by US Presidents Joe Biden and China’s Xi Jinping ended with the leaders of the superpowers agreeing that they need to be cautious as their nations see in an increasingly fierce competition.
Faced with domestic pressure at home, both Biden and Xi seem determined to cool down the most important — and often tumultuous — relationship for both sides on the global stage.
“As I have said before, for me it is our responsibility as leaders of China and the United States to ensure that competition between our countries does not turn into conflict. , whether on purpose or not,” Biden told Xi at the start. their virtual meeting on Monday. “Simple, straightforward competition.”
The White House set low expectations for the meeting and no major announcement or even a joint statement was made. However, White House officials said the two leaders had a substantive exchange.
Mr. Xi greeted the US President as an “old friend” of his and repeated Mr. Biden’s cordial tone in his own opening remarks, saying that “China and the United States need to strengthen communication and cooperate.”
Relations have not lacked strain since Biden entered the White House in January and was quick to criticize Beijing for its human rights abuses against the Uighurs in northwest China, its crackdown on political protests, and its repression. pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, military aggression against self-ruled Taiwan and more. Meanwhile, Xi’s deputies have attacked the Biden White House for meddling in what they see as China’s internal affairs.
The White House in a statement said that Biden once again raised concerns about China’s human rights practices and made clear that he sought to “protect American workers and industries from commercial and unfair economy of the People’s Republic of China”. The two sides also talked about important regional challenges, including North Korea, Afghanistan and Iran.
As US-China tensions mount, both leaders also find themselves bearing the weight of growing challenges in their backyards.
Biden, who has watched his poll numbers dwindle amid concerns about the lingering coronavirus pandemic, inflation and supply chain issues, is looking to balance on the foreign policy issue due to the pandemic. consequences he had to face.
Meanwhile, Xi is facing a resurgence of COVID-19, rampant energy shortages and a looming housing crisis that Biden officials fear could send shockwaves through the market. global school.
At present, both China and the United States are at important stages of development, and humanity is living in a global village, and together we face many challenges.
The President of the United States was in the Roosevelt Room for a video call by Secretary of State Antony Blinken and several aides. For his part, Xi was accompanied by Communist Party director Ding Xuexiang and several advisers in the East Room of the Great Hall of the People.
High-level diplomacy related to the pandemic Zoom had an informal meeting when the two leaders waved to each other when they saw each other on the screen, and Mr. Xi told Biden, “This is the first time we have met.” virtual meeting, although it’s not as good as a face-to-face meeting.”
Biden should have wanted to meet Xi in person, but the Chinese leader hasn’t left his country since the coronavirus pandemic began. The White House floated the idea of a virtual meeting as the next best thing to allowing the two leaders to have a candid conversation about the range of tensions in the relationship.
Chinese officials have said in advance that Taiwan will be their top issue in the negotiations. Tensions have risen as the Chinese military has sent more and more fighter jets near the self-ruled island of Taiwan, which Beijing considers part of its territory. Chinese military forces held exercises last week near Taiwan in response to a visit by a US congressional delegation to the island.
“The Taiwan issue concerns China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as China’s core interests,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on Monday. “It is the most important and sensitive issue in China-US relations.”
The White House said Biden reiterated that the United States would abide by the longstanding “One China” policy of the US, which recognizes Beijing but allows informal and defense relations with Taipei. But Biden also made clear that the United States “strongly opposes unilateral efforts to alter the status quo or undermine peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait,” the White House said.
With Beijing gearing up to host the Winter Olympics in February and Mr. Xi expected to be approved by Communist Party leaders to serve as party leader next year and then a term as president. Tuesday in 2023 – unprecedented in recent Chinese history – the Chinese leader may look forward to stabilizing the relationship in the near term.
“China and the United States should respect each other, coexist peacefully, and pursue win-win cooperation,” Xi said.
Despite his domestic problems, White House officials have made the case that Biden will come to the meeting as a powerhouse.
Earlier, on Monday, Biden signed into law the $1 trillion infrastructure bill, legislation to upgrade the nation’s crumbling infrastructure that Democrats say is crucial to America as it seeks to maintain a competitive advantage over China.
“Because of this law, next year will be the first in 20 years that American infrastructure investment will grow faster than China’s,” Biden announced at the signing ceremony. “We will once again have the best roads, bridges, harbors and airports over the next decade.”
Both leaders nodded about their history to the other. Biden noted that the two spent “terrible … a lot” talking to each other over the years, and never left “wondering what the other man was thinking”. During their talks, both leaders recalled things others had said in previous conversations as they sought to rebut and advance the water arguments, according to a senior official. of the Biden administration, who informed reporters after the meeting on condition of anonymity.
But public enthusiasm – Mr. Xi called Biden his “old friend” when the then vice president visited China in 2013, while Biden spoke of their “friendship” – cooled when both are heads of state. In June, Biden fumed when asked by a reporter if he wanted to urge his old friend to cooperate with a World Health Organization investigation into the origins of the coronavirus.
However, Mr. Xi seems interested in publicly reviving the warm bond of the early days of their relationship, saying, “I’m happy to see my old friend again.”
During the early Bidens, the two sides frequently swapped decisions, and the president’s top advisers engaged in fruitless exchanges. But there have been moments of progress.
Last week, the United States and China pledged at the United Nations climate talks in Glasgow, Scotland, to increase cooperation and speed up action to curb climate-damaging emissions.
Republicans accuse the Biden administration of failing to hold Beijing accountable for human rights for pursuing its climate agenda.
By turning a blind eye to human rights atrocities in pursuit of his political agenda, Biden has allowed China to threaten the security of the United States and the sovereignty of our allies, while undermining undermine the advancement of liberty globally,” the Republican National Committee said in a statement shortly before the start of the leaders’ meeting.
The White House said it views cooperation on climate change as something China is interested in, something the two nations should cooperate with despite differences on other aspects of the relationship.
“This is not in the interest of either of our countries – what we do for each other – it’s just responsible world leadership,” Biden told Xi. “You are a great leader in the world, and so is the United States.”
Associated Press journalist Ken Moritsugu in Beijing contributed to this report.