Biden and Xi meet amid economic and military tensions

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Biden and Xi meet amid economic and military tensions

WASHINGTON – Chinese President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping met in a virtual summit on Monday evening, as the United States seeks to engage in what it calls “intense competition” with China to prevent a serious conflict.

The meeting, which began shortly before 8 p.m. Eastern, was expected to last more than three hours.

Since becoming president, Mr Biden has previously spoken with Mr Xi twice, but they have not met in person this year. Administration officials said the virtual meeting was to assure both sides that misunderstandings and miscommunication would not lead to unintended clashes.

A senior US official told reporters on Sunday that the president would emphasize the need to “keep communication lines open” as the two countries face disagreements over issues such as the future of Taiwan, the militarization of the South China Sea and cyber security.

Mr Biden has repeatedly suggested that it should be possible to avoid active military engagement with China, even as the United States engages in competition with Beijing and continues to confront the Chinese leadership on a number of important issues.

But the call, which was launched at Mr Biden’s request, reflected his administration’s deep concern that the chances of keeping the conflict afloat could be slim.

Members of Mr Biden’s team were guarded over what topics they wanted to raise with Mr Xi. The senior administrative official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to preview the meeting, broadly outlined some of the issues that were likely to come up.

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The official said Mr Biden plans to address several points of disagreement, including China’s human rights abuses, America’s commitment to defending Taiwan, China’s support for its state-based industries, and its policies regarding cybertechnology. has created.

Also on the agenda were areas in which Chinese and US interests were aligned, including efforts to combat global warming. But the administration official said Biden would make it clear to Xi that working to stop climate change was not a “favour” to the United States, but a decision by China to act in its best interest.

It was unclear whether Mr. Xi intended to raise other issues such as US tariffs on Chinese goods or the recent US agreement to provide nuclear submarines to Australia. The senior official said Mr Biden was not planning to raise those topics until Mr Xi mentioned them.

The official declined to say whether the two leaders would discuss the possibility of US representation at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing in February.

Biden administration officials have said they believe the US-China relationship is in a new phase that is more dynamic and complex than in previous years. But it is unclear how Mr Biden will try to accomplish his goals when previous administrations have tried and failed to make good on a similar agenda.

President Barack Obama tried a similar balance with the Chinese, securing a commitment from Mr. Xi to avoid militarization of the South China Sea – a threat to international travel through the region – and reduce cyber conflict between the two countries. to do.

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Since then, China has increased its military presence in the South China Sea, and cyber conflicts have intensified.

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