US President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping met in person for the first time as national leaders on Monday after months of escalating tension between the United States and China. Both leaders have expressed a willingness to open lines of communication and restore a relationship that has been compared to a second Cold War.
The meeting was held in a spirit of mutual engagement and accepted that both countries were facing challenges from international conflict and economic turbulence. There may have some long-term effects of these talks on the most significant bilateral relationship in the world.
Both leaders came to Bali for a meeting of the Group of 20 leaders after having a moment of political success. Mr. Biden’s party did better than expected in the midterm elections, and Mr. Xi won a historic third term as Communist Party leader. During a lengthy meeting, they discussed about the war in Ukraine, the military tension in the Taiwan Strait, and the North Korean missile testing.
Major highlights of the meeting
China-US bi-lateral relations
According to the White House, to meet the expectations of the international community, Biden highlighted that the United States and China must cooperate to address transnational issues like climate change, and global macroeconomic stability, including debt relief, health security, and global food security.
The Chinese readout stated, “The two presidents agreed that their respective diplomatic teams should maintain strategic communication and conduct regular consultations; their financial teams will continue dialogue and coordination on macroeconomic policies, economic ties, and trade. They agreed to make good use of the China-US joint working group to promote the resolution of more issues.”
Additionally, in an obvious attempt to resolve US concern about China’s goals, Xi said to Biden that “China does not seek to change the existing international order or interfere in the internal affairs of the United States, and has no intention to challenge or displace the United States.” Xi has highlighted that China-US ties should not be a zero-sum game since the world is large enough for the two nations to coexist and “prosper together.”
The Taiwan issue, according to Xi, “is at the very core of China’s core interests, the bedrock of the political foundation of China-US relations, and the first red line that must not be crossed in China-US relations.” He encouraged the United States to support its words with deeds and adhere to its one-China policy. The US’s “one-China” policy agrees with Beijing that Taiwan is part of China, but it doesn’t agree with Beijing’s claim that it has sovereignty over the island, which is self-governing. Biden “raised concerns about PRC practices in Xinjiang, Tibet, and Hong Kong, and human rights more broadly,” according to the U.S. readout. However, according to China, these issues are “internal affairs,” which has nothing to do with “foreign interference.”
The two leaders also spoke about North Korea — a longstanding regional security issue. Biden warned if Beijing is unable to rein in Pyongyang’s weapons ambitions, the U.S. would beef up its presence in the region — a move that will be read by Beijing as a threat to its own security.
Defending China’s system of governance
In response to Biden’s framing of the US-China conflict as “democracy versus authoritarianism,” Xi asserted that China has what he called “Chinese-style democracy.” No country should “should try to remold the other in one’s own image, or seek to change or even subvert the other’s system,” Xi said, referring to both the US and China.
Previously, the US had enforced trade restrictions. China’s president, Xi Jinping, criticized the US for trying to create “walls and barriers” and promote “decoupling and severing supply chains.” He declared, “We oppose politicizing and weaponizing economic and trade ties as well as exchanges in science and technology.”
Ukraine – Russia war
According to the White House, the two presidents” reiterated their agreement that nuclear war should never be fought and can never be won.” Along with it, they “underscored their opposition to the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine.”
The Chinese readout did not mention any joint opposition of Xi and Biden to the threat of nuclear weapons in Ukraine. It mentioned that Xi has stated about China is “highly concerned” about the present condition in Ukraine and “has all along stood on the side of peace and will continue to encourage peace talks.”
Both parties said that the two leaders instructed their teams to get in contact often to follow up on their discussions and resolve additional issues. The White House announced that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will visit Beijing soon as part of this effort.
A new beginning?
The talk lasted over three hours, with the leaders promising to keep working to mend ties that are currently at their worst in decades. All of that did not hide the huge differences in their ideologies, which included those on the future of Taiwan, military competition, technological limitations, and human rights. With a lot at stake, both leaders chose not to take a chance at uncontrolled conflict. Instead, they chose to bet that personal diplomacy and more than a decade of contacts could stop disagreements from getting worse.
At a news conference after the meeting, Mr. Biden stated, “We’re going to compete vigorously, but I’m not looking for conflict.” “I’m looking to manage this competition responsibly,” he added.
According to a statement released by the Chinese government, Mr. Xi stated in his opening remarks that “as the leaders of these two great powers, China and the United States, we must play the role of setting the direction of the rudder, and we should find the correct approach for developing bilateral relations.”
Amid rising US-China tensions and militarization of the Taiwan issue, the talks between Biden and Xi provided a rare opportunity for better communication and a discussion of what Biden has referred to as the “red lines” for each side.
Both Biden and Xi stated that they were seeking ways to get along with one another despite their differences. “Do I believe he’s willing to compromise on certain issues? Yes,” Biden later briefed reporters about his meeting with Xi. “We were very blunt with one another about places where we disagreed, ” he added.
When Beijing canceled talks in a number of sectors in response to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan in August, relations between Beijing and Washington sunk to a new low. Additionally, the United States enforced severe export restrictions on some key semiconductor technologies last month. These trade sanctions were specifically created to restrict China’s access to crucial technological sectors including military modernization and artificial intelligence. Both parties have expressed concern about the potential repercussions of a misunderstanding.
Following the meeting on Monday, Washington and Beijing made clear in their respective statements that they would continue to cooperate on a number of topics, such as climate change, health, and food security. They also vowed to maintain lines of communication open.