Biden meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping

President Biden on Monday met with Chinese President Xi Jinping and said in their first in-person meeting since Biden took office that the two leaders should manage their differences.

“As the leaders of our two nations, we share a responsibility, in my view, to show that China and the United States can manage our differences, prevent competition from becoming anything ever near conflict and to find ways to work together on urgent global issues that require our mutual cooperation,” Biden said to Xi to open their meeting in Bali, Indonesia.

“And I believe this is critical for the sake of our two countries and the international community,” Biden added, saying that the meeting should last a few hours.

Biden and Xi are in Bali for the Group of 20 summit. They shook hands at the beginning of the meeting and smiled and posed for photographs in a room with both the American and Chinese flags.

Biden said that he is “committed to keeping the lines of communications open” between himself and Xi, adding that the U.S. and China “have so much that we have an opportunity to deal with.”

Additionally, the president said he is ready to work with China to address global challenges from the climate to food insecurity.

“The United States stands ready to do just that — work with you — if that’s what you desire,” Biden said.

Biden and Xi have had five phone or video calls since Biden took office, with their last face-to-face meeting occurring in Davos, Switzerland, in 2017. Xi met with former President Trump in 2019.

Biden said in a press conference last week that he would address his views on U.S. commitments to Taiwan’s defense in the bilateral meeting with Xi. Biden has often said that he believes the U.S. should come to Taiwan’s defense if China were to launch an invasion, remarks that have led the White House to attempt to clarify that such defense falls short of American military intervention.

Xi, in his opening remarks on Monday, said that lessons can be learned from the U.S. and China’s over-50-year relationship.

“History is the best textbook, so we should take history as a mirror and let it guide the future,” Xi said. “Currently, the China-U.S. relationship is in such a situation that we all care a lot about it, because this is not the fundamental interests of our two countries and peoples and it is not what the international community expects [from] us.”

He also said that a “statesman” should “think about and know how to get along with other countries and the wider world.”

And the Chinese leader said that the world is watching and expects the U.S. and China to “properly handle the relationship.”

Reporters traveling with Biden listened to the opening remarks at the top of the meeting. As they were being ushered out of the room where the meeting was to take place, a member of the U.S. press called out to Biden, asking whether he would raise human rights during the talks.

A man from the Chinese side yanked the producer backward by her backpack. She lost balance without falling and was pushed toward the door. Two White House staff members intervened, saying the producer should be left alone.

President Biden said there does not need to be a new “Cold War” with China, following what he characterized as a straightforward and candid meeting with President Xi. 

“I absolutely believe, there need not be a new Cold War,” the president said in a press conference with reporters. 

“We were candid and clear with one another across the board,” said Biden, who often emphasizes that he understands Xi from the time both spent serving as vice presidents in their countries.

The Biden administration has identified China as the greatest challenge and competitor to the U.S. in the 21st century.

Beijing’s close ties with Russia amid Moscow’s war in Ukraine have sunk the relationship to a low point.

China’s threats to Taiwan, its stifling of democracy in Hong Kong and its human rights record, including allegations of genocide against Uyghur Muslims, have further inflamed the relationship.

Biden on Monday offered a fairly positive view following the meeting with Xi, despite these differences.

On the threat of nuclear weapons, Biden said that he and Xi “reaffirmed our shared belief in the threat, where the use of nuclear weapons is totally unacceptable.”

That could be read as a statement pointed at Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has threatened Ukraine with the use of nuclear weapons.

But Biden, in his press conference, focused on his conversation with Xi about China exercising more influence in reining in North Korea’s nuclear provocations.  

“I made it clear to President Xi Jinping that I thought they had an obligation to attempt to make it clear to North Korea that they should not engage in long range nuclear tests,” the president said. 

He added that he told Xi if North Korea did conduct such a test, the U.S. would “take certain actions that would be more defensive on our behalf and it would not be directed against China, but it would be to send a clear message to North Korea.”

The White House has earlier said it believes that the issue of North Korea’s nuclear provocations is the one area where the U.S. and China share the most in common. 

Biden was candid that he did not think Washington and China are “gonna be able to work everything out,” but added that the leaders agreed to set up high-level meetings to discuss tense issues in the relationship. 

“I want to be clear, and be clear with all leaders, but particularly with Xi Jinping, that I mean what I say and I say what I mean, so there’s no misunderstanding. That’s the biggest concern I have, is a misunderstanding about intentions or actions on each of our parts.”

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