Joe Biden, China’s Xi Jinping meet virtually as US-China chasm widens


Joe Biden opens virtual meeting with Xi Jinping

President Joe Biden opened his virtual meeting with China’s Xi Jinping on Monday (local time) by saying his goal is to ensure competition “does not veer into conflict.” The two leaders met virtually amid mounting tensions in the US-China relationship. Biden has criticized Beijing over human rights abuses against Uyghurs in northwest China, squelching democratic protests in Hong Kong, military aggression against the self-ruled island of Taiwan, and more. Xi’s deputies, meanwhile, have lashed out against the Biden White House for interfering in what it sees as internal Chinese matters.

“We have a responsibility to the world and to our people,” Biden said at the start of the meeting. He added that “all countries have to play by the same rules of the road.”

Biden would have preferred to meet Xi in person, but the Chinese leader has not left his country since before the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

The White House floated the idea of a virtual meeting as the next best thing to allow for the two leaders to have a candid conversation about a wide range of strains in the relationship.

Xi told Biden the two sides need to improve communication. The two leaders traveled together when both were vice presidents and know each other well.

“I am very happy to see my old friend,” Xi told Biden at the start of the meeting.

The background

Joe Biden and China’s Xi Jinping have slurped noodles together in Beijing. They’ve shared deep thoughts about the meaning of America during an exchange on the Tibetan plateau. They’ve gushed to US business leaders about developing sincere respect for each other.

The American president has held up his relationship with Xi as evidence of his heartfelt belief that good foreign policy starts with building strong personal relationships.

But as the two leaders prepare to hold their first presidential meeting on Monday, the troubled U.S.-China relationship is demonstrating that the power of one of Biden’s greatest professed strengths as a politician — the ability to connect — has its limits.

Meanwhile, White House officials have set low expectations for Monday’s virtual meeting.

“No major announcements are expected and there’s no plan for the customary joint statement by the two countries at the end,” according to administration officials.

(With inputs from AP)

Also Read | CPC defends President Xi Jinping’s ‘core’ leader status, attacks US & western democracies

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