US President Joe Biden raised China’s policies in Tibet, Hong Kong and Xinjiang and unfair trade actions at his first bilateral meeting — held virtually with President Xi Jinping on Monday. He also reiterated US support for Taiwan while remaining committed to the “One China” policy.
The US president stressed the need for “common sense guardrails to ensure competition does not turn into conflict,” according to a readout of their three-hour meeting released by the White House.
There were no major results or outcomes from the meeting, as had been warned by US officials. “Our responsibility as leaders of China and the United States is to ensure that competition between our countries does not turn into conflict, intentional or unintentional,” President Biden said in his opening address. “Just simple, uncomplicated competition.”
President Xi said: “A solid and stable relationship between China and the US is required to promote the respective development of our two countries and to ensure a peaceful and stable international environment, including finding effective responses to global challenges such as climate change, to which you referred, and the Covid pandemic.”
He added: “China and the United States should respect each other, coexist in peace and pursue a win-win cooperation.”
Though held virtually, this was the first bilateral meeting of the two leaders to have had extensive telephone conversations twice before. They had met once long before either of them had risen to their current position—they were both vice presidents at the time. That was in 2012.
President Biden has tried to describe the bilateral relationship as intense competition between the world’s two largest economies and called for guardrails to prevent it from escalating into a conflict, emphasizing the need to keep communications open between the two sides.
The senior Biden administration official who provided the meeting for reporters had said the two countries were “in a fundamentally different place to each other than we have been in the past” and described the meeting as part of ongoing efforts to responsibly manage competition, not about agreeing to a specific performance or outcome”.
Biden expressed ‘concern about the PRCs’ [People’s Republic of China] practices in Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong, as well as human rights in general. He was clear about the need to protect American workers and industries from the unfair trade and economic practices of the PRC,” the White House said in the reading.
The US president also discussed the “importance of a free and open Indo-Pacific, and communicated the United States’ continued determination to fulfill our commitments in the region”. And he reiterated the importance of freedom of navigation and safe overflight to the prosperity of the region.
On Taiwan, President Biden underlined the US commitment to the “One China” policy, but said the ties will be guided by the Taiwan Relations Act, the three joint communiqués and the six guarantees, under which the US can supply military hardware. Taiwan delivers. He added that the United States “strongly opposes unilateral attempts to change the status quo or undermine peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait”.