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Biden urges Xi not to allow competition ‘to become conflict’

Joe Biden told Xi that their countries must not let competition “turn into conflict” at the start of the virtual meeting that comes amid rising tensions over Taiwan.

“We need to establish a barrier of common sense, be clear and honest where we disagree, and work together where our interests are not,” the US president told his Chinese counterpart. we intersect”. “None of this is favoring either of our countries. . . it’s just responsible world leadership. “

Biden wants to hold the summit in person, but Xi hasn’t left China in nearly two years because of the coronavirus pandemic. The US-China relationship is at its worst since the two countries established diplomatic relations in 1979.

“This is the first time we have met virtual. Although it’s not as good as a face-to-face meeting, I’m happy to see my old friend again,” Xi told Biden in his opening remarks to the media.

Xi said countries should “respect each other, coexist peacefully, and pursue win-win cooperation” in a mantra that critics say is meant for China to pursue. controversial policies such as the suppression of the Uighurs and the suppression of the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong.

But the White House says Biden has raised US concerns about Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Tibet, as well as broader human rights. “He was clear about the need to protect American workers and industries from [China’s] The White House added, and “discussed the importance of a free and open Indo-Pacific”.

According to Xinhua, the Chinese news agency, Mr. Xi told Biden that the two sides need to “constructively manage differences and sensitive issues to prevent Sino-US relations from going astray”. find common ground on issues like climate change and pandemics. He also compared the two countries to two large ships that needed “stabilizing rudders” to avoid collisions.

The United States has been wary of China’s military expansion and the situation around Taiwan, with Beijing increasingly sending its warplanes into the island’s air defense identification zone.

China tested a nuclear-capable hypersonic weapon in July, and the Pentagon recently said Beijing would quadruple its nuclear stockpile to more than 1,000 warheads by 2030.

Mr. Xi pressed Biden to ensure that he did not undermine the “one China” policy under which the US has recognized Beijing as the only government position in China since 1979. The US has implemented policy changes this year to make it easier for US officials to interact with Taiwanese officials.

Xi warned that supporters of Taiwan independence and anyone who supports them are “playing with fire” and will only “burn themselves,” according to Xinhua. He added that if anyone crosses China’s “red line” towards Taiwan, then Beijing will “have to take decisive measures”.

Drew Thompson, a former Pentagon official now at the Lee Kwan Yew School of Public Policy, said both sides had “very modest expectations” for the meeting. “The goal is to stabilize the relationship and manage the competition, not necessarily to fix the big problems,” he said.

Biden recently said the US would protect Taiwan against any attack from China, in the comments contrasted with a longstanding policy of “strategic ambiguity,” in which the United States is vague about whether it provides aid to Taiwan. The White House immediately downplayed Biden’s comments, but they worried Beijing further about his stance.

Chinese analysts say Xi cannot compromise on “key” issues such as Taiwan and his campaigns to assert control over Hong Kong and the northwestern region of Xinjiang.

“China has a very clear position on [these issues] and will not be shaken,” said Shi Yinhong, a foreign relations expert at Renmin University.

Additional reporting by Xinning Liu in Beijing

Monitor Demetri Sevastopulo and Tom Mitchell on Twitter

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