US President Joe Biden will tell Chinese leader Xi Jinping at an impending virtual meeting that China must “abide by the rules of the road” as a responsible nation, a senior US government official said.
The video dialogue, initiated by Biden and expected by the United States on Monday night, Washington time, to last several hours, will be about determining terms for future US-China competition, the official told reporters.
Both sides hope the most extensive talks between the leaders since Biden became president will make the relationship less bitter.
The United States and China, the world’s largest economies, disagree over things such as the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, China’s growing nuclear arsenal and Beijing’s heightened pressure on Taiwan.
“This is an opportunity for President Biden to tell President Xi directly that he expects him to obey traffic laws, which other responsible countries are doing,” the official told reporters, citing a litany of US concerns, including China’s economic “compulsion” from US allies and alleged human rights violations.
Biden aims to write those rules “in a way that is beneficial to our interests and our values and those of our allies and partners,” the official said, adding that talks with China should be “substantive and not symbolic.” .
“This is not a meeting where we expect to see results,” the official added.
US officials have downplayed the possibility of progress in trade, with China falling behind on its commitment to buy $200 billion more in US goods and services. US tariffs on Chinese goods that Beijing and business groups hope to be lowered are not on Biden’s agenda.
The official declined to answer questions about whether the United States will send officials to the Beijing Winter Olympics in February. Activists and US lawmakers have urged the Biden administration to boycott the Olympics.
Xi, who looks ahead to the Games and a major Communist Party congress next year where he is expected to secure an unprecedented third term, also wants to avoid heightened tensions with the United States.
But he and Biden outlined competing views last week, with Biden emphasizing the US commitment to a “free and open Indo-Pacific,” which Washington says faces increasing Chinese “coercion,” while Xi warned of a return to the tensions in the Cold War.
“Both sides hold each other with deep suspicion and are taking substantial steps to compete against each other in economics, security and politics,” said Scott Kennedy, a China expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
Democrats in Congress want Biden to make nuclear mitigation measures with China a top priority after the Pentagon reported that China was significantly expanding its nuclear weapons and missile programs.
Beijing argues that its arsenal is dwarfed by that of the United States and Russia, and says it is ready for dialogue if Washington reduces its nuclear stockpile to China’s levels.
Taiwan is likely to play a major role in the negotiations, with Beijing and Washington increasingly clashing over the self-ruled island, which China claims as its own.
The Biden administration has been trying to create more space for Taiwan in the international system. Beijing has vowed to bring the island back under mainland control, if necessary by force.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said last week that Washington and its allies would take unspecified “action” if China used force to change Taiwan’s status quo, disrupting the long-held US policy of “strategic ambiguity” as to whether the United States would respond militarily.
Speaking to Blinken on Saturday, senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi warned Washington against sending the wrong signals.
Australian Associated Press