Biden and Xi shake hands as they meet amid superpower tensions
NUSA DUA, Indonesia — President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday opened their first face-to-face meeting since the US president took office nearly two years ago amid rising economic and security tensions between the two superpowers vying for global influence.
Xi and Biden shook hands at a luxury resort hotel in Indonesia where they are attending the G20 major economies summit. At the start of their call, Biden said he and Xi have a “responsibility” to show their nations can “manage our differences” and identify areas of mutual cooperation. Xi added he hopes the couple will “improve the relationship” and is willing to have an “open and in-depth exchange of views” with Biden.
Both men went into the much-anticipated meeting with a boosted political standing at home. Democrats triumphantly retained control of the US Senate and had a chance to improve their ranks by one in a runoff election in Georgia next month, while Xi was awarded a third five-year term by the Communist Party’s National Congress in October break with tradition.
“We have very few misunderstandings,” Biden told reporters Sunday in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where he was attending a gathering of Southeast Asian nations before leaving for Indonesia. “We just need to figure out where the red lines are and … what’s most important to each of us over the next two years.”
Biden added, “To state the obvious, his circumstances have changed at home.” The president said of his own situation, “I know I’m coming in stronger.”
White House officials have repeatedly tried to downplay any notion of conflict between the two nations, stressing that they believe the two countries can work together on common challenges such as climate change and health security.
But US-China relations have grown strained under successive American administrations as economic, trade, human rights and security differences have come to the fore.
As president, Biden has repeatedly held China accountable for human rights abuses against the Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities, crackdowns on democracy activists in Hong Kong, forced trade practices, military provocations against self-governing Taiwan, and differences over Russia’s conduct of the war against Ukraine. Chinese officials have largely refrained from public criticism of the Russian war, although Beijing has avoided direct support such as arms sales.
Taiwan has become one of the most contentious issues between Washington and Beijing. Biden has said multiple times during his presidency that the US would defend the island — which China is targeting for eventual unification — in the event of a Beijing-led invasion. But government officials have consistently stressed that the US’s “one China” policy has not changed. This policy recognizes the Beijing government but allows for informal and defense ties with Taipei and its attitude of “strategic ambiguity” about whether it would respond militarily if the island were attacked.
Tensions flared further when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., visited Taiwan in August, prompting China to retaliate with military exercises and launching ballistic missiles into nearby waters.
The Biden administration also blocked exports of advanced computer chips to China last month – a national security move that boosts US competition against Beijing. Chinese officials were quick to condemn the restrictions.
And although the two men have had five phone or video calls during Biden’s presidency, White House officials say those encounters are no substitute for Biden being able to meet and assess Xi in person. This task is all the more important after Xi bolstered his power through the party congress, as lower-level Chinese officials were unable or unwilling to speak for their leader.
Asked about the expected meeting, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said at a news briefing last week that China is seeking “win-win cooperation with the US,” while reiterating Beijing’s concerns about the US stance on Taiwan.
“The US must stop obscuring, hollowing out and distorting the one-China principle, upholding the basic norms in international relations, including respect for other countries’ sovereignty, territorial integrity and non-interference in the internal affairs of others countries,” he said.
Xi has stayed close to home during the global COVID-19 pandemic, where he has enforced a “zero-COVID” policy that has led to mass lockdowns that have disrupted global supply chains.
He made his first trip outside of China since the pandemic began in September, stopping in Kazakhstan and then to Uzbekistan to attend the eight-nation Shanghai Cooperation Organization with Putin and other leaders of the Central Asian Security Group.
White House officials and their Chinese counterparts have spent weeks negotiating all the details of the meeting, which is being held at Xi’s hotel with translators providing simultaneous interpretation through headphones.
US officials have been keen on how Xi will approach meeting Biden after cementing his position as the undisputed leader of the state, and said they would wait to assess whether that made him more or less likely to explore areas of cooperation with the US to search
Biden and Xi each brought small delegations into the discussion, with US officials expecting Xi to bring newly appointed government officials to the meetings and expressing hope this could lead to more substantive engagements later.
Before meeting Xi, Biden first met with Indonesian President Joko Widodo, who is hosting the G-20 summit, to announce a range of new development initiatives for the archipelagic nation, including investments in climate, security and education.
Many of Biden’s conversations and engagements during his three-country tour – which took him to Egypt and Cambodia before landing on the island of Bali on Sunday – were intentionally designed to prepare him for his meeting with Xi and send a signal to the US would compete in areas where Xi has also worked to expand his country’s influence.
In Phnom Penh, Biden sought to assert US influence and engagement in a region where China has a foothold and where many nations feel allied with Beijing. He also sought opinions on what to raise with Xi in talks with leaders from Japan, South Korea and Australia.
The two men have a history dating back to Biden’s time as vice president, when he embarked with Xi, then-vice president of China, on a meeting mission that took Xi to Washington and Biden through trips with the Tibetan Plateau. The US President has stressed that he knows Xi well and wants to use this face-to-face meeting to better understand where the two men stand.
Biden was happy to slip hints of his talks with Xi into his travels around the US ahead of the midterm elections, and used the Chinese leader’s preference for autocratic governance to make his own case to voters as to why democracy should prevail.
The president’s view was somewhat vindicated on the global stage, when White House officials said several world leaders reached out to Biden during his time in Cambodia – where he met with Asian allies to warn them in the face of China’s assertiveness US involvement in the region persuading actions – to tell him that they were closely monitoring the outcome of the midterm elections and that the results were a triumph for democracy.
US officials said no joint communiqué was expected after the meeting with Xi, downplaying expectations of policy breakthroughs. The White House said Biden plans to hold a press conference after his meeting with Xi.
https://nypost.com/2022/11/14/biden-xi-shake-hands-as-they-meet-amid-superpower-tensions/ Biden and Xi shake hands as they meet amid superpower tensions