Biden, Xi hold virtual summit amid rising U.S.-China tensions

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden virtually met with Chinese President Xi Jinping Monday night in a conversation the White House said did not lead to breakthroughs in US-China relations, but rather a move towards managing one Has entered into a relationship that has become increasingly hostile.

In a statement following the meeting, the White House said Biden raised concerns about Beijing’s crackdown on Hong Kong’s democracy movement, China’s abuse of Muslim Uyghurs in Xinjiang, and human rights in general.

The two heads of state and government also discussed Taiwan at length. The White House said Biden underscored the US’s commitment to the “one-China” policy, but directly addressed his concerns that Beijing’s policies on self-governing democracy are increasingly at odds with the status quo.

In a call to reporters, a senior administration official described the meeting as “respectful”, “straight forward” and “open”.

“The meeting itself was really about the two leaders discussing ways to responsibly manage competition between the United States and China and how to set guard rails for that competition,” the official said. “That was an issue throughout the conversation.”

President Joe Biden will virtually meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping from the Roosevelt Room of the White House on November 15, 2021.Susan Walsh / AP

Biden had spoken to Xi twice since taking office, but on Monday the two leaders met for the first time in a more formal setting. The White House had hoped to hold the meeting in person, but Xi has not left China since January 2020, when the coronavirus first began to spread.

“A virtual meeting is not exactly the same as a face-to-face meeting, but it was certainly very different from just a phone call,” said the senior official in the Biden government. “The two leaders really had a fair amount of back and forth and the ability to interact with each other.”

Relations between the US and China have become more and more strained in recent years. The two countries started a trade war under the Trump administration, and Biden took a tough stance on China during his presidential campaign, calling Xi a “thug”. The Chinese leader has repeatedly celebrated America’s dwindling power, saying, “The East is rising and the West is falling.”

Biden and Xi, who spoke through interpreters on Monday, shared conciliatory words as they sat down for their three-and-a-half hour video conference.

“It seems to me that our responsibility as leaders of China and the United States is to ensure that competition between our countries does not conflict, whether intentional or unintentional,” said Biden in opening remarks at a table in the Roosevelt Room sits.

Xi called Biden an “old friend” – the two leaders traveled together when they were both vice presidents of their respective nations – and said their countries need to “increase communication and cooperation.”

“China and the United States should respect each other, coexist in peace and seek win-win cooperation,” said Xi.

Biden government officials had downplayed expectations prior to the meeting, telling reporters that the meeting was meant to open channels of communication between the two leaders rather than producing results or specific outcomes.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday that Biden felt he was entering the meeting from a “position of strength” after he went overseas for the Group of 20 summit in Rome and the UN last month. Climate Conference in Scotland had fought – neither Xi attended personally. Psaki said the passing of the infrastructure bill, which Biden signed on Monday afternoon, also strengthened the president’s position.

“This infrastructure law is imperative and important for many reasons, but one of them is: For the first time in 20 years, we will be investing more in infrastructure than in China,” said Psaki.

In the call with reporters, the senior administration official said Biden urged Xi to “Phase one“Trade deal that China has signed with the Trump administration. Biden also raised the coronavirus pandemic and communicated the” important role transparency plays “in combating global health, the official said.

Beijing-Washington relationship got off to a difficult start under the Biden administration after top US and Chinese diplomats met with a public explosion in front of reporters at a meeting in Alaska in March. Foreign Minister Antony Blinken criticized Beijing for its growing authoritarianism, while Chinese Communist Party foreign policy official Yang Jiechi accused Washington of hypocrisy over human rights.

Blinken and Yang both attended Monday’s meeting. The meeting also attended Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, and National Security Advisor Kurt Campbell, Laura Rosenberger and Jon Czin.

China is supposed to host the Olympic Winter Games 2022 in Beijing. There were rumors that Xi would use Monday’s meeting to invite Biden to the Games, but a senior administrative official said the Olympics would not be held.

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