Chinese President Xi Jinping meets with U.S. President Joe Biden via video link on November 16, 2021 in Beijing, capital of China.
Huang Jingwen | Xinhua News Agency | Getty Images
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden will discuss a range of geopolitical challenges next week in his first face-to-face meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping since his ascension to the White House two years ago.
“We expect this meeting to be an in-depth and substantive conversation between leaders aimed at better understanding each other’s priorities and intentions,” a senior Biden administration official told reporters on a call.
The meeting between the two leaders takes place on Monday before the G-20 summit in Bali, Indonesia.
“I expect the President will be honest about a number of our concerns,” added the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The official said Biden will raise concerns about harmful economic practices, Chinese activities that “threaten peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, and our long-standing concerns about human rights abuses.”
Biden told reporters at the White House on Wednesday that he wanted to address the growing tensions between Washington and Beijing.
“What I want to do with him when we talk is set out what each of our red lines is and understand what he thinks are the critical national interests of China, which I think are the critical interests of the United States.” said Biden. “And determine whether or not they conflict with each other.”
The two leaders have spoken five times during Biden’s presidency, having previously discussed a face-to-face meeting during a two-hour phone call in late July.
Xi has remained close to home since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. Last month he embarked on his first trip to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. The senior Biden administration official declined to elaborate on measures to mitigate Covid-19 for the meeting, adding that the health protocols were still being worked out by advance teams.
The July call came as Biden drew Beijing’s ire by suggesting the US would defend Taiwan if it were attacked by China. During the discussion, Xi urged Biden not to “play with fire” on Taiwan. The White House has repeatedly said the comments do not constitute a change in US foreign policy.
At the time, Beijing also accused US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of further straining bilateral relations with a trip to Taiwan, which China considers part of its sovereign territory. Pelosi was the senior US official to visit the island in 25 years.
In retaliation for Pelosi’s visit, Beijing imposed sanctions on her and launched live-fire military drills across the island. Taiwanese defense officials described the exercises as “highly provocative”.
Tensions between Beijing and Washington, the world’s two largest economies, had already reached new heights under the Trump administration.
Former President Donald Trump blamed China for a variety of wrongdoings, including intellectual property theft, unfair trade practices and the coronavirus pandemic.
U.S. President Donald Trump and China’s President Xi Jinping attend an event for business leaders at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing November 9, 2017.
Nicolas Asfouri | AFP | Getty Images
Biden has previously said he will work more closely with allies to roll back China’s economic abuses. He has also called Beijing America’s “serious competitor.”
Biden is also expected to raise concerns about Xi’s relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin as Moscow continues its months-long assault on its former Soviet neighbor.
“I think the president will be honest and direct with President Xi about how we see the situation in Ukraine with Russia’s war of aggression,” the official said.
“This is an issue that the President and President Xi have discussed several times. They talked about it extensively in their video call in March and then talked about it again in July, so it’s part of an ongoing conversation between them,” the person added.
Weeks before the all-out invasion of the Kremlin in Ukraine, Putin traveled to Beijing to meet with Xi and later issued a memorandum expressing a “borderless” relationship between their nations.
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Two weeks after Russian troops poured into Ukraine’s borders, US and Chinese officials met to discuss the Kremlin’s war and other areas of mutual interest.
A senior administration official described the talks, then taking place in Rome, as “intense” and lasting at least seven hours.
The official, who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity, said Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan told China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi that the US was concerned that Beijing might try to help Russia relax global sanctions.
“What I would say in general is that we have major concerns about China’s alignment with Russia,” the official said. “The National Security Advisor addressed these concerns and the potential impact and consequences of certain actions head-on.”