- US President Joe Biden stressed “just simple, straightforward competition” with China.
- Chinese President Xi Jinping said the two sides should increase communication and cooperation.
- The United States and China disagree on a wide range of issues, including the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic and trade rules.
US President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping stressed their responsibility to the world to avoid conflict as the leaders of the two global economies gathered for hours of talks on Monday.
“It seems to me that our responsibility as leaders of China and the United States is to ensure that our competition between our countries does not develop into conflict, whether intentional or unintentional,” Biden said.
“Just simple, straightforward competition.”
The United States and China disagree on the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, trade and competition rules, Beijing’s expanding nuclear arsenal and its increasing pressure on Taiwan, among other issues.
Xi called Biden an “old friend” and said the two sides need to increase communication and collaboration to address the many challenges they face. Biden has previously disputed the characterization of their relationship as an old friendship.
Speaking through an interpreter, Xi said: “As the world’s two largest economies and the permanent members of the UN Security Council, China and the United States need to increase communication and cooperation.”
Biden promised to address areas of concern, including human rights and other issues in the Indo-Pacific region, adding that “you and I have never been so formal with each other.”
The conversations, which were initiated by Biden and began at. 19:46 Monday (at 0046 GMT Tuesday), was intended to make the relationship less difficult.
The two sides took a 15-minute break after a nearly two-hour first session that ran half an hour longer than expected, according to Chinese state media reports, before resuming the conversation.
The early moments of the two leaders’ dialogue were observed by a small group of journalists with Biden in the White House’s Roosevelt Room, before heads of state and top aides spoke privately. The American president smiled broadly when the Chinese president appeared on a large screen in the meeting room.
Biden and Xi have not had a face-to-face meeting since Biden became president, and the last time they spoke was by telephone in September.
U.S. officials have downplayed expectations of any concrete agreements between the two sides, including on trade, where China lags behind in its commitment to buy $ 200 billion more in U.S. goods and services. Not on Biden’s agenda are US tariffs on Chinese goods, which Beijing and business groups hope will be reduced.
The White House has declined to answer questions about whether the United States will send officials to the Winter Olympics in Beijing in February. Activists and U.S. lawmakers have called on the Biden administration to boycott the Games.
“Both sides are trying to establish the call’s goal of building stability in the relationship, both through their collegial language and overall framework for the conversation and the importance of the relationship,” said Scott Kennedy, China expert at the Washington Center for Strategic and International Studies. .
“The question is whether they will reach agreement on something or at least agree to disagree and avoid escalating steps.”
Xi, who is looking forward to the Olympics and a Communist Party congress next year, where he is expected to secure an unprecedented third term, is also eager to avoid heightened tensions with the United States.
But he is expected to withdraw from Washington’s efforts to create more space for Taiwan in the international system. China claims the autonomous island as its own. Beijing has promised to bring the island under Chinese control, by force if necessary.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a regular briefing on Monday: “It is hoped that the United States and China will meet halfway, strengthen dialogue and cooperation, deal effectively with differences, deal with sensitive issues properly and explore ways of mutual respect and peaceful coexistence.”
Xi and Biden outlined competing visions last week, in which Biden stressed the United States’ commitment to a “free and open Indo-Pacific,” as Washington says, facing rising Chinese “coercion,” while Xi warned of a return to tensions from the cold. war.
A tabloid published by the ruling Communist Party’s People’s Daily on Monday called Taiwan “China’s ultimate red line.”
Taiwan is not the only hotspot. Democrats in the U.S. Congress want Biden to make nuclear risk reduction measures with China a top priority after the Pentagon reported that Beijing expanded its nuclear and missile programs significantly.
Beijing claims its arsenal is smaller than the United States and Russia, and says it is ready for dialogue if Washington reduces its nuclear stockpile to China’s level.
“This is President Biden’s opportunity to show steel, to show strength on the part of the United States, to make it clear that we will stand by our allies and that we will not support or tolerate the malicious behavior that China has engaged in. “said the Republican senator. Bill Hagerty, who served as ambassador to Japan under former President Donald Trump.