Chinese President Xi Jinping and his US counterpart Joe Biden on Monday expressed their desire to prevent their rivalry from turning into a conflict, during face-to-face talks on the sidelines of the G20 summit on the Indonesian island of Bali. The relations between the two countries are marked by differences over a variety of issues such as Taiwan and other issues related to trade.
US Presidents Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping wrapped up a historic summit on the Indonesian island of Bali on Monday, after three hours of talks that sought to prevent their rivalry from turning into a conflict.
Biden’s motorcade left the summit site after the two leaders expressed hope that the two superpowers could manage their growing differences.
Xi and Biden shook hands in front of their respective flags before bilateral talks on the Indonesian resort island of Bali ahead of the G20 summit, after months of tension over Taiwan and other issues.
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Biden said Beijing and Washington “share a responsibility” to show the world that they can “manage our differences and prevent competition from turning into conflict.”
This meeting is the first personal meeting between the two leaders since Biden became president of the United States.
The interview began with Biden and his Chinese counterpart shaking hands warmly and smiling in front of a row of Chinese and American flags at a luxury hotel in Bali.
“We spent a lot of time together when we were both vice presidents, and it would be great to meet you,” Biden told Xi, adding, in remarks to reporters, that he is committed to keeping the lines of communication open at both the personal and government levels.
Biden continued, “As leaders of our two countries, I believe it is our duty to show that we in China and the United States can manage our differences, prevent competition … from turning into conflict, and find ways to work together on pressing global issues that require our mutual cooperation.”
The US president cited climate change and food insecurity as problems that countries are expected to address.
For his part, Xi Jinping responded to his US counterpart by saying that they need to chart their own course, find the right direction and raise the level of relations that fall short of global expectations. He added that he looked forward to working with Biden to get relations back on track.
But despite upbeat public statements, relations between the two countries remain increasingly suspicious, as the United States fears that China has stepped up its timetable to seize control of Taiwan. Biden said he had assured his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, that China’s “aggressive” actions on Taiwan endangered peace.
The White House announced that Biden had raised objections to “China’s increasingly coercive and aggressive actions toward Taiwan,” adding that they “undermine peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and in the broader region.”
A White House official said before the meeting that Biden hoped to put “safety barriers” in the relationship with China and assess how to avoid “red lines” that could push the world’s two largest economies into conflict.
Taiwan is one of the most sensitive issues between the two countries, as this self-governing democracy considers China part of its territory. The United States strengthened its support, while China intensified its threats to seize the island. After House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taipei in August, China responded with unprecedented military exercises.
On the eve of the talks with Xi, Biden met Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and South Korean President Yoon Sok-yeol on the sidelines of the Southeast Asia Summit in Cambodia, where the three leaders jointly called for “peace and stability” in the Taiwan Strait.
Biden had told Asian leaders in Cambodia on Sunday that US lines of communication with China would remain open to prevent conflict, while stressing that talks between the two leaders would be marked by great difficulties in the coming days.
As a reminder, relations between the two countries have deteriorated in recent years due to increasing tensions over various issues: Hong Kong and Taiwan, the South China Sea and US trade practices and restrictions on Chinese technology.
While US officials spoke to soften the atmosphere and said that the two sides had calmed down over the past two months in order to mend relations.
“These meetings are not held in isolation, they are part of a very sustainable process,” a Biden administration official explained. “We’ve been engaged in serious and ongoing diplomacy, dozens and dozens of hours, of quiet diplomacy behind the scenes.”