US President Joe Biden and China’s head of state and party leader Xi Jinping on Monday spoke out in favor of avoiding a further escalation of tensions between their countries, despite all differences. At the start of their meeting before the G-20 summit in Bali, Xi said that mutual relations were “facing a lot of challenges”. “As leaders of two great countries, we must chart the right path for US-China bilateral relations as we move forward.” Relationships should take “the correct direction” and be elevated to a higher level.
Biden said the world looks to the US and China to play a role and work together to solve the biggest challenges, from climate change to food security. “The US stands ready to do just that, if you wish.” Both countries, the US President said, shared the responsibility to show that they can resolve their differences and avoid their competition “ever coming close to conflict”.
Greeting with a handshake: That is remarkable
The men greeted each other remarkably friendly and with a handshake on Monday, something Xi had avoided when Chancellor Olaf Scholz visited China a week ago. Neither wore masks, which was also unusual from a Chinese perspective. At home, the country is struggling with the biggest corona outbreak in months, and several cities with over a million inhabitants are in lockdown. The Chinese President had not left his country for almost three years due to the pandemic.
According to Biden, the presidents spoke “openly and clearly” to each other during the three-hour exchange, and both understood the statements and opinions of the other. Biden and Xi know each other from their time as Vice Presidents. During the welcome speech, China’s President reminded his counterpart of their last personal meeting in 2017 at the World Economic Forum in Davos. In Bali, both emphasized how important a personal exchange is.
Relations between Washington and Beijing are historically bad. The trade dispute between the economic powerhouses has been going on since 2018, and China accuses the USA of hampering the country’s rise out of resentment. Beijing’s territorial claims in the South China Sea and China’s threats against democratic Taiwan also strain relations. Since the visit of the US Democrat Nancy Pelosi in August, China shut down almost all official channels of communication with the United States.
In addition, there is Beijing’s position in the Ukraine conflict, so far China has not condemned the Russian war of aggression. In his talks with US President Joe Biden on Monday, Xi Jinping said China supports a resumption of peace talks between Ukraine and Russia. According to US information, both sides also condemned the Russian threats to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine. Accordingly, they also agreed that “nuclear war should never be waged”.
With a view to Taiwan Xi urged the US president to stay out of the conflict. “Resolving the Taiwan issue is a matter for the Chinese and China’s internal affairs.” It is the “first red line that must not be violated in China-US relations.”