President Joe Biden opened his virtual meeting with China’s Xi Jinping on Monday by saying his goal is to ensure competition “doesn’t conflict”. The two leaders meet via video amid mounting tensions in the US-China relationship. Biden has criticized Beijing for human rights violations against Uyghurs in northwestern China, suppression of democratic protests in Hong Kong, military aggression against the self-ruled island of Taiwan and more. Xi’s deputies, meanwhile, have lashed out at Biden’s White House for meddling in what it sees as internal Chinese affairs. “We have a responsibility to the world and our people,” Biden said at the start of the meeting. He added that “all countries must play by the same traffic rules.” Biden would have preferred to meet Xi in person, but the Chinese leader has not left his country since before the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The White House put forward the idea of a virtual meeting as the best option to allow the two leaders to have a frank conversation about a wide range of tensions in the relationship.
Xi told Biden that the two sides need to improve communication. The two leaders traveled together when both were vice presidents and knew each other well.
“I am very happy to see my old friend,” Xi told Biden at the start of the meeting.
The US president has upheld his relationship with Xi as a testament to his genuine belief that good foreign policy starts with building strong personal relationships. But as the two leaders prepare for their first presidential meeting on Monday, the troubled US-China relationship shows that the strength of one of Biden’s greatest claimed strengths as a politician — the ability to connect — has its limits.
“When it comes to US-China relations, the gaps are so wide and the trendlines so problematic that the personal approach can only go so far,” said Matthew Goodman, who serves as an Asia adviser to the National Security Council in the United States. administrations of Barack Obama and George W. Bush.
White House officials have set low expectations for Monday’s virtual meeting: No major announcements are expected and there is no plan for the two countries’ usual joint statement at the end, according to government officials.
Public heat — Xi called Biden his “old friend” when Biden visited China in 2013, while the then US vice president spoke of their “friendship” — has cooled now that both men are heads of state. Biden was upset in June when a reporter asked him if he would urge his old friend to cooperate in a World Health Organization investigation into the origin of the coronavirus.
“Let’s get things straight: we know each other well; we’re not old friends,” Biden said. “It’s just pure business.” Biden nevertheless believes that a face-to-face meeting — even a virtual one like the two leaders will hold Monday night — has its value. “He believes that the history of their relationship, having spent time with him, allows him to be quite candid as he has been and will continue to be in the past,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement. preview of the meeting.
Biden and Xi, aged 78 and 68 respectively, first met while traveling through the US and China when both were vice presidents, interactions that both leaders say left a lasting impression. Lately, there have been signs that at least a partial thaw could take place after the Biden administration’s first nine months were marked by mutual accusations and unproductive exchanges between the presidents’ top advisers.
Last week, for example, the US and China pledged at UN climate talks in Glasgow, Scotland, to step up their cooperation and accelerate action to contain climate-damaging emissions. Monday’s meeting — the third meeting of the two leaders since Biden became president — comes amid mounting tensions in the US-China relationship. The two had lengthy phone calls in February and September to discuss human rights, trade, the pandemic and other issues.
Biden has made it clear that he sees China as the United States’ biggest national security and economic competitor and has sought to reformulate US foreign policy to reflect that belief. His government has held Beijing to account for committing human rights abuses against ethnic minorities in northwestern China, suppressing pro-democracy efforts in Hong Kong and resisting global pressure to fully cooperate with origin investigations. of the coronavirus pandemic.
Tensions have also risen as the Chinese military has sent an increasing number of fighter jets near the self-ruled island of Taiwan, which Beijing considers part of its territory.
Chinese officials have indicated that Taiwan will be a pinnacle of talks. Biden has made it clear that his administration will adhere to the long-standing US “One China” policy, which recognizes Beijing but allows informal and defense relations with Taipei. Chinese forces held exercises near Taiwan last week in response to a visit by a US congressional delegation to the island. The president plans in part to use the conversation to underline the need to put “guardrails” in the relationship to ensure the two sides avoid “unintended conflicts” amid fierce competition, a senior government official said. who briefed reporters on the White House’s schedule for the meeting and spoke on condition of anonymity.
(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is generated automatically from a syndicated feed.)