Biden to meet China’s Xi Jinping at G20 amid strained relations

First in-person talks between the two leaders since Biden took office aim to ‘deepen lines of communication’, US says.

US President Joe Biden speaks virtually with Chinese leader Xi Jinping from the White House in November, 2021. The two leaders are scheduled to meet in person at the G20 meeting in Bali, Indonesia, next week [File: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters]
US President Joe Biden speaks virtually with Chinese leader Xi Jinping from the White House in November, 2021. The two leaders are scheduled to meet in person at the G20 meeting in Bali, Indonesia, next week [File: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters]

United States President Joe Biden will meet Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Group of 20 (G20) summit next week, the White House has announced, in what will be the first in-person talks between the two leaders since Biden took office in early 2021.

In a statement on Thursday, the White House said Biden would speak with Xi on November 14 in Bali, Indonesia, about “efforts to maintain and deepen lines of communication” between the two countries at a time of growing tensions.

The pair will also discuss efforts to “responsibly manage competition” and how to “work together where our interests align, especially on transnational challenges that affect the international community”, the statement read.

The meeting comes amid increasing frustration between the US and Chinese governments over issues such as trade policy, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and China’s approach to Taiwan.

A senior administration official said Biden hopes to limit the deteriorating ties with China but he will be honest with Xi about US concerns, including over Taiwan and human rights,

“The president believes it is critical to build a floor for the relationship and ensure that there are rules of the road that bound our competition,” the official told reporters in a call on the meeting.

Biden, asked as he left the White House on Thursday evening if he believed the talks with Xi would be productive, responded: “I always think my conversations are productive.”

Biden and Xi last met in person during the Obama administration and ties between Beijing and Washington have since sunk to their lowest level in decades, most notably since US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan in August.

China considers the self-governed democratic island as its territory and has become enraged at high-profile visits to Taipei by US and European politicians.

Biden has been seeking more stable relations with Beijing despite tensions over Taiwan, territorial disputes in the South China Sea where Beijing has asserted historic rights to ownership, and a host of other issues including trade and human rights.

The senior US administration official said there would be no joint statement from the meeting between Biden and Xi, and there are no expectations for specific agreements.

“I expect the president will be honest about a number of our concerns, including PRC (People’s Republic of China) activity that threatens peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, as well as our longstanding concerns about human rights violations,” the official said.

Biden said on Wednesday he was unwilling to make any fundamental concessions when he meets Xi and that he wanted both leaders to lay out their “red lines” and resolve areas of conflict, including on Taiwan.

Zhao Lijian, a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, told a press conference on Thursday that China had taken “seriously” the US proposal for a meeting between the two leaders and that teams from both sides were in communication on the matter.

“China’s US policy is consistent and clear. We are committed to mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation with the US. At the same time, we will firmly defend our sovereignty, security and development interests,” Zhao said.

On the issue of Taiwan, Zhao had a strong message for the US.

“What the US needs to do is stop fudging, distorting and hollowing out the one-China principle, strictly abide by the basic norms of international relations including respect for other countries’ sovereignty and territorial integrity and non-interference in other countries’ internal affairs,” he said.

”It is important that the US work together with China to properly manage differences, advance mutually beneficial cooperation, avoid misunderstanding and miscalculation, and bring China-US relations back to the right track,” he added.

Virtual meetings

While Biden and Xi have held a few virtual meetings, the discussion in Bali will be the first time they have spoken face-to-face since Biden became president in January of last year.

It also comes just weeks after Xi secured a historic, third term as general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, cementing his place as one of the nation’s most influential leaders.

Shortly after winning his third term, Xi said in a letter that the US and China must “find ways to get along in the new era”. Biden has also noted that while the US sees China as a competitor, “we’re making it clear that we don’t seek conflict”.

That commitment has been tested over a number of issues, including US steps that aim to undermine China’s manufacturing of semiconductor chips.

In recent years, the US also has criticised China’s human rights record, particularly as it concerns its Uighur Muslim minority in the western province of Xinjiang.

The United Nations has said at least one million Uighurs and other minorities are being held in a network of detention centres in what the UN human rights office said in September could amount to “crimes against humanity”.

China has said the measures are necessary to counter “extremism” while rejecting international criticism as “disinformation”.

Biden on Wednesday told reporters he intended to discuss with Xi the growing tensions between Washington and Beijing.

“What I want to do with him when we talk is lay out what each of our red lines are and understand what he believes to be in the critical national interests of China, what I know to be the critical interests of the United States,” Biden said.

“And determine whether or not they conflict with one another.”

Source: Al Jazeera, The Associated Press