President Joe Biden held “candid” discussions with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday as tensions between both countries has increased substantially in recent months.
Biden, who met virtually with Xi Monday evening, said that the two held a “candid and forthright discussion” regarding how best to handle the great-power competition between the world’s two biggest economies.
“As I’ve said before, it seems to be our responsibility — as leaders of China and the United States — to ensure that the competition between our countries does not veer into conflict, whether intended or unintended. Just simple, straightforward competition,” Biden noted as he opened the virtual conference, The Hill reported.
“It seems to me we need to establish a commonsense guardrail, to be clear and honest where we disagree and work together where our interests intersect, especially on vital global issues like climate change,” Biden added.
The president also stressed a need for countries to all “play by the same rules of the road,” adding that he will continue to raise issues when and where U.S. officials are having “concerns,” to include human rights and economic matters as well as security in the Indo-Pacific region.
Xi noted through an interpreter that he was “very happy to see my old friend,” going on to say that “China and the United States need to increase communication and cooperation.”
In addition to Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, among other top administration officials, were also on hand for the virtual call from the Roosevelt Room. In addition, a number of Chinese officials were present with Xi.
The hours-long meeting “punctuates high tensions between the U.S. and China on economic and security issues,” The Hill reported, adding that Biden was planning to express concerns over several issues including China’s unfair trade practices, its aggression towards Taiwan, and ongoing human rights abuses.
But U.S. tariffs on Chinese products as well as the ongoing supply chain crisis were not expected to be discussed at length, the outlet noted further.
White House officials pushed Biden’s long relationship with Xi dating back to when both were vice presidents as giving him an advantage heading into the talks.
“The president feels that he’s able to have candid discussions with President Xi, someone … with whom he can raise directly areas where we have concern, whether it’s security issues, whether it’s economic issues, whether it is human rights issues,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki in a briefing to reporters Monday afternoon.
Observers will watch to see how effective Biden’s approach is with China as compared to former President Donald Trump, who took a hardline approach with Beijing in terms of trade and security.
Washington Post reporter Josh Rogin noted in his new book “Chaos Under Heaven,” which was released last month, that Trump’s approach to China, while chaotic at times, was the right one.
In particular, Rogin noted that while the Obama administration did not recognize the significance of China’s rise, Trump understood that “the Chinese government was becoming more externally aggressive, more internally repressive, and more totalitarian in its politics and economics, fusing state and business in a coordinated strategy not to join the world order that the United States and its partners had built after World War II but rather to undermine that system and replace it with one suited to China’s interests — and one that would protect the party’s survival and success above all.”
Prior to the virtual meeting, Biden administration officials appeared to lower expectations that any major agreements would be reached, stressing that the president’s main objective was simply to reconnect with Xi and “deepen communication with China to ensure that competition between the countries does not escalate into conflict,” The Hill reported.
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