US President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping opened their first in-person meeting since the former took office nearly two years ago, with the aim of “handling” differences between the superpowers as they compete. for global influence amid growing economic and security tensions. .
Xi and Biden greeted each other with a handshake at a luxury resort on the Indonesian island of Bali on Monday, where they are attending the summit of the Group of 20 (G20) of major economies, before sitting down for what was expected to happen. It was a conversation that would last several hours.
“As leaders of our two nations, we share a responsibility, in my opinion, to show that China and the United States can manage our differences, prevent competition from escalating into anything close to conflict, and find ways to work together on pressing global issues. . that require our mutual cooperation,” Biden said opening the meeting.
Xi said he hoped they would “chart the right course for the China-US relationship” and was ready for a “sincere and in-depth exchange of views” with Biden.
Reporting on the G20 summit, Al Jazeera’s diplomatic editor James Bays said there was little hope that anything particularly substantial would come out of the meeting.
“It’s about two leaders knowing each other from the past, getting to know each other again and building a little more trust to try and take some of the tension out of the relationship,” Bays said.
“Both sides say they have to find a way to work together. The White House report said they need red lines and they need to determine where each other’s limits are on key issues.”
The two leaders entered the highly anticipated meeting with a strengthened political position at home.
Democrats triumphantly maintained control of the US Senate, with the prospect of increasing their ranks by one in a runoff election in Georgia next month, while Xi was handed an unprecedented third five-year term in October by the Democratic Party. of the National Congress of the Communist Party. a break with tradition.
“We have very few misunderstandings,” Biden told reporters in Cambodia on Sunday, where he was taking part in a meeting of Southeast Asian nations before leaving for Indonesia. “We just have to figure out where the red lines are and … what are the most important things for each of us in the next two years.”
Biden added: “Your situation has changed, to state the obvious, at home.” The president said of his own situation: “I know I’m coming in stronger.”
Relations have become more tense under successive US administrations, as economic, trade, human rights and security differences have come to the fore.
As president, Biden has repeatedly rebuked China for human rights abuses against the Uighur people and other ethnic minorities, crackdown on democracy activists in Hong Kong, coercive trade practices, military provocations against Taiwanese self-governance and differences over the prosecution of Russia in their war. against Ukraine.
Chinese officials have largely refrained from publicly criticizing Russia’s war, although Beijing has avoided direct support such as arms supplies.
Taiwan has become one of the most contentious issues between Washington and Beijing.
Several times in his presidency, Biden has said the United States would defend the island, which China has considered for eventual unification, in the event of a Beijing-led invasion.
Tensions rose further when US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan in August, prompting China to retaliate with military exercises and the launch of ballistic missiles into nearby waters.
The Biden administration also blocked exports of advanced computer chips to China last month, a national security move that bolsters US competition against Beijing. Chinese officials were quick to condemn the restrictions.
Before the meeting, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said China was committed to peaceful coexistence but would firmly uphold its sovereignty, security and development interests.
“It is important for the US to work together with China to properly manage differences, advance win-win cooperation, avoid misunderstandings and miscalculations, and put China-US relations on the right track of sound development. and constant,” he said at a daily briefing. in Beijing.
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