US President Joe Biden closed his first virtual summit with Chinese leader Xi Jinping with a focus on economic competition, human rights and strategic risks, including Taiwan.
While Xi called on the United States to stop cracking down on Chinese companies on national security grounds, Biden shed light on Beijing’s “unfair economic and trade practices” and the US policy of working with allies to “defend their interests and values.”
“President Biden also underscored the importance of managing strategic risks. He noted the need for common sense security measures to ensure that competition does not become a conflict and to keep the lines of communication open,” the reading of the White House.
Taiwan featured prominently in the first video summit among the leaders of the world’s two largest economies. “In Taiwan, President Biden stressed that the United States remains committed to the ‘one China’ policy,” the statement said, adding that the United States “strongly opposes” unilateral efforts to change the status quo or undermine the peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. .
Xi, for his part, reiterated Beijing’s patience for “peaceful reunification” with Taiwan, but warned that “drastic measures” would follow if “the separatist forces of Taiwan’s independence … break the red line.”
In his first public comment since the end of the UN COP26 climate summit, where China and India were diluted In the final statement on coal, Xi said there should be more action and fewer slogans. “There should be less blame, but more cooperation,” he told Biden.
The meeting comes amid heightened concern about how far the geopolitical tension would go as China’s rise poses an ever-increasing challenge to US global dominance.
Biden declared in the opening minutes of their long-awaited meeting that the two leaders “have the responsibility of the world and of our people” to ensure that bilateral competition “does not turn into a conflict, whether intentional or not.”
Biden touted his story of a decade of long one-on-one encounters with Xi, saying that “they had always communicated with each other in a very honest and sincere way” and that they “never walked away wondering what the other man was thinking.”
“All countries have to follow the same rules of the road [and that’s] why America will always defend our interests and values, and those of our allies and partners, “Biden told Xi. “If the past is a prologue, I am sure that today we will discuss those areas in which we have concerns: on human rights, on the economy. [and] to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific. “
Those items are part of what Biden called a “broad and substantive” meeting agenda.
Xi replied through an interpreter that he was “very happy to see my old friend.” He said the two countries need to “increase communication and cooperation” but made no specific reference in his opening remarks to the issues he intended to raise during meeting hours.
“Humanity lives in a global village and we face multiple challenges together,” Xi said before the journalists were pulled from the Roosevelt Room of the White House.
With Biden were members of the cabinet, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen, and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan. The US delegation also included Kurt Campbell, deputy assistant to the president and coordinator for the Indo-Pacific at the National Security Council, and Laura Rosenberger, special assistant to the president and senior director for China and Taiwan at the NSC.
Xi was accompanied by his trade envoy, Vice Premier Liu He, Foreign Minister Wang Yi and China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi.
Biden and Xi, who were speaking for the third time this year, communicated through interpreters in a meeting that a senior administration official said Sunday would “last several hours.”
The meeting was expected to produce joint resolution statements to reduce bilateral tensions intensified by months of rhetorical discussions on myriad issues, including Taiwan, human rights and the origin of Covid, as well as what a DC-based diplomat described as possible. “sweeteners”. to improve business ties.
Biden was seeking “a stable state of affairs between our two countries where we compete vigorously, where we reject the many areas of concern we have with the People’s Republic of China, and where we coordinate on issues where our interests align,” said a senior official from the administration. he told reporters on Sunday.
Both sides had publicly downplayed the event’s ambitions and kept their agenda secret as part of a bilateral strategy to lower expectations of a meaningful rapprochement or big results.
But beyond the performative goodwill gestures, people familiar with preparing for the meeting said it can produce a handful of short- and medium-term initiatives developed by joint working groups to reduce friction, as well as possible alignment that point out broader geopolitical concerns, including North Korea and Iran.
Biden bases his latest engagement with Xi on the recognition that past efforts by the United States to direct changes in the autocratic domestic policies of the ruling Chinese Communist Party and expansionist foreign policy have failed. “Unlike previous approaches, with respect to China, the Biden administration is not trying to change China through a bilateral engagement. [because] We don’t think it’s realistic, ”the administration official said. “Rather, we are trying to shape the international environment in a way that is favorable to ourselves and our allies and partners.”
One-to-one is particularly important after Xi’s “continued centralization of power” in sixth plenary session last week meeting, the official said. But the time of the leaders meeting, hours after Biden signed in law a $ 1 trillion infrastructure package means “Biden will also come into the meeting with a heavy hand,” the official said.
A statement issued Monday by the Chinese embassy in Washington, DC, described the relationship between the United States and China as “at a crossroads” and highlighted the global implications of the meeting. “President Xi will have a sincere, in-depth and comprehensive exchange of views with President Biden on strategic issues shaping the future of China-US development relations,” the embassy said.
The senior administration official said Biden would also increase transnational “alignment” between the two countries, including health security and action to address the climate crisis. But Biden will reject any attempt by Xi to link China’s cooperation on climate with progress on specific bilateral issues. “Taking bold action in an existential crisis like climate change is in [China’s] interest and … it is not a favor for us, ”said the official.
The president of the United States would be “candid and forthright” on the issues of “divergence”, including human rights and Taiwan, as well as the United States’ perceptions of China’s “economic coercion” and “strategic risk”, such as Chinese cyberspace activities, the official said.
Biden’s concerns about possible miscalculations that could lead to an inadvertent military conflict between the United States and China put the issue of “security barriers” on the agenda, dependent on improving bilateral communications.
“All of this really makes it even more important for leaders to sit face-to-face and have a real discussion about the nature of the relationship, our terms and expectations about it, how to conduct competition in a way that is competitive but does not generate conflicts, and how to find ways to manage the risks that we see in that competition, ”said the official.