Administration

Biden set for expansive virtual meeting with Chinese president

President Biden will tell Chinese President Xi Jinping that the U.S. and China need to build “commonsense guardrails” of communication to ensure the competition between the two countries does not veer into conflict during their virtual meeting on Monday evening, a senior administration official said.

Biden is expected to raise concerns with China’s behavior on an array of issues while also discussing areas of potential cooperation during his first face-to-face meeting with the Chinese leader since taking office.

The meeting, which will be conducted virtually, is expected to stretch several hours. Officials have lowered expectations for the meeting since it was officially scheduled on Friday, saying it is not expected to yield specific deliverables.

“This meeting is about our ongoing efforts to responsibly manage the competition, not about agreeing to a specific deliverable or outcome,” a senior administration official told reporters Sunday.

The official said that Biden asked for the meeting with Xi to “make clear our intentions and our priorities to avoid misunderstandings.”

“The president will also make clear that we want to build commonsense guardrails to avoid miscalculation or misunderstanding. That is how you sustain responsible competition,” the official said.

The meeting comes at a time of persistently high tensions between the U.S. and China on multiple fronts. Among the issues Biden is expected to raise with Xi are China’s unfair economic practices, human rights abuses, military activity near Taiwan and cybersecurity.

At the same time, the Biden administration is trying to advance cooperation with China on issues like climate change and global health. In a surprise move, the U.S. and China agreed to issue a joint statement pledging action on climate change at the United Nations climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, that concluded over the weekend, though officials say that more is still needed on the part of Beijing.

“China taking bold action on an existential crisis like climate change is in its interest and that is what responsible nations do,” the senior administration official said. “This is not a favor to us and while we may work together in these regards, that does not either alter the nature of the bilateral relationship and we very much reject a linkage between cooperation on transnational issues and bilateral relations.”

Tensions between the U.S. and China have flared, especially with regard to China’s behavior toward Taiwan in recent weeks. Dozens of Chinese warplanes entered Taiwan’s defense zone throughout October. 

 
Biden publicly pledged to defend Taiwan against an attack from China last month, leading U.S. officials to scramble to insist that the remarks did not represent a shift in policy.
 
Biden has also made gaining an edge over China a central argument for his sweeping domestic policy agenda, which includes a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill the president plans to sign into law hours before he sits down to speak with Xi. 

While Biden and Xi have not met one-on-one since Biden took office, they have held two extensive phone calls. Officials have been laying the groundwork for Monday’s meeting for several weeks.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken held a call with his Chinese counterpart, Foreign Minister Wang Yi, on Friday and raised concerns about China’s behavior toward Taiwan.

“He urged Beijing to engage in meaningful dialogue to resolve cross-Strait issues peacefully and in a manner consistent with the wishes and best interests of the people on Taiwan,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said.

 
“The secretary also stressed the importance of taking measures to ensure global energy supply and price volatility do not imperil global economic recovery,” he added. 
Tags Antony Blinken Climate change cybersecurity Human rights Joe Biden Trade US-China relations Xi Jinping

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