| 12 December 2023, Tuesday |

Biden and Xi meet face-to-face as superpower relations mired in tensions

For the first time since taking office, U.S. President Joe Biden will meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping in person on Monday. On the top of his agenda will be U.S. concerns regarding Taiwan, Russia’s conflict in Ukraine, and North Korea’s nuclear aspirations.

The long-awaited face-to-face encounter will take place at a time when ties between the superpowers are at an all-time low. Before the yearly Group of 20 (G20) meeting, which brings together the leaders of the world’s largest established and emerging countries, the two will meet on the Indonesian island of Bali.

Biden goes into the meeting on the back of a major domestic victory with Democrats clinching control of the Senate, a development acknowledged by global leaders, while Xi secured an unprecedented third term in office last month.

“I know I’m coming in stronger but I don’t need that. I know Xi Jinping, I spent more time with him than any other world leader.” Biden told reporters in Cambodia on Sunday after the Senate results. “There’s never any miscalculation about … where each of us stands.”

The U.S. president is hoping to create a “floor for the relationship” with China and ensure that there are rules that bound competition between the two countries while on a whirlwind trip that includes stops at an international climate summit in Egypt, an ASEAN gathering, and the East Asia Summit in Cambodia ahead of the G20.

When he talks with Xi, Biden recently stated that he will not be making any fundamental compromises and that he wants both leaders to establish their “red lines” and work out their differences.

The meeting is unlikely to produce concrete results and no joint statement is expected, the White House has said, but it could help stabilize ties marked by growing tensions over issues from Hong Kong and Taiwan to the South China Sea, coercive trade practices and U.S. restrictions on Chinese technology.

Biden and Xi, who have held five phone or video calls since Biden took office in January 2021, last met in person during the Obama administration. Strains flared especially after U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s August trip to Taiwan, the self-governed democratic island that Beijing claims as its territory.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said the meeting could run for two hours or more, and Biden would be “totally straightforward and direct” in the conversation.

“The president sees the United States and China as being engaged in a stiff competition, but that competition should not tip over into conflict or confrontation,” Sullivan told reporters, promising Biden comments afterwards. He said Biden would also look for areas where the United States and China could work together, including climate change or public health.

  • Reuters