BALI, Indonesia – President Joe Biden said he remains hopeful that the U.S. and China can work together during a Monday meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
“The world expects, I believe, China and the United States to play key roles in addressing global challenges from climate change to food insecurity and for us to be able to work together,” Biden told Xi. “The United States stands ready to do just that, work with you, if that’s what you desire.”
The meeting between the leaders of the world’s two largest economies is happening on the sidelines of the G-20 Summit, which is being held this year on the resort island of Bali.
Leaders were expected to discuss simmering tensions between China and Taiwan, a self-governed island that Xi has a strong desire to bring under mainland control, Russia’s war on Ukraine, which will soon enter its ninth month.
China has been irked by the United States’ close relationship with Taiwan. Beijing responded to an August visit by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to the island by firing missiles into the Taiwan Strait. The nation has also been put in an undeniably a difficult position by Russia’s war in Ukraine.
“I’m committed to keeping the lines of communications open between you and me personally, but also our governments across the board,” Biden told Xi on Monday, emphasizing both countries share a responsibility to “manage our differences, prevent competition from becoming anything ever to near conflict, and to find ways to work together on urgent global issues that require our mutual cooperation.”
Xi responded by saying, “The world has come to a crossroads. Where to go from here. This is a question that is not only on our mind but also on the mind of all countries. The world expects that China and the United States will properly handle the relationship.”
Biden and Xi last met in 2017 in Davos, Switzerland on one Biden’s last days as vice president. Since becoming president in 2021, Biden had spoken with Xi by phone video five times, prior to their meeting on Monday.
The conversation in Bali was expected to be a lengthy one. Biden set aside up to four hours for the talk before the start of a planned news conference.
U.S. officials said that they expected a business-like attitude at the summit, which was limited to the two presidents and their closest advisers.
Biden’s administration views the meeting with China, which it considers to be the United States’ main economic rival, as an initial conversation between the leaders. The hope on the U.S. side was that in a face-to-face conversation, the leaders could set guardrails for the relationship in a way they have not been able to over the phone – especially when it comes to Taiwan.
The U.S. has long had a policy of strategic ambiguity around how it would respond to an attack on the territory, but Biden has suggested repeatedly that the U.S. would come to Taiwan’s defense if the territory were to come under attack.
Barry Pavel, a defense policy aide to former President’s George W. Bush and Barack Obama on the National Security Council, said in the Xi meeting, Biden should “make it very clear that the U.S. and Taiwan and other democratic partners are increasingly close, and it would be extremely unwise and damaging for China if it were to undertake an invasion or otherwise coerce Taiwan.”
“Within a private meeting that might happen that might have more of an impact than in front of a microphone,” said Pavel, a vice president at the nonprofit RAND Corporation and director of its National Security Research Division.
Story Credit: usatoday.com