Taiwan, Xinjiang and Hong Kong dominate Biden-Xi meet

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Biden and Xi held their first in-person meeting as Presidents on the sidelines of the G20 meetings in Bali, Indonesia…reports YASHWANT RAJ

US President Joe Biden told China’s President Xi Jinping Monday that he was committed to keeping lines of communications open with him, and, according to a White House readout of their meeting, raised concerns about Beijing’s practices in Xinjiang, Tibet, and Hong Kong, and human rights more broadly.

President Xi spoke about charting a “flight course” for the relationship which was important not only for the two countries but also the world.

Biden and Xi held their first in-person meeting as Presidents on the sidelines of the G20 meetings in Bali, Indonesia. And it came at a time of a historic low in the relationship over China’s position on the Russian invasion of Ukraine and a visit by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan, which was cited by Beijing to shut down military-to-military and other lines of communication.

The two leaders met first as Vice Presidents in 2014, and have spoken on phone or through video link five times after Biden took over as President. Their meeting in Bali was their first and US officials said previewing it that it would essentially set the rules of the road for the relationship. No joint statement is expected of the meeting.

“I am committed to keeping the lines of communications open between you and me personally and our governmenst across the board, because our two countries have so much that we have an opportunity to deal with,” Biden said in opening remarks before the meetings as the two leaders sat at separate tables.

The US President stressed the need for the two countries to “manage our differences, prevent competition from becoming anything ever near conflict, and to find ways to work together on urgent global issues that require our mutual cooperation”.

President Xi called for the “need to chart the right course for the China-US relationship” and said the two countries “need to find the right direction for the bilateral relationship going forward and elevate the relationship”.

He added: “The world expects that China and the United States will properly handle the relationship. And for our meeting, it has attracted the world’s attention.”

The US readout of the meeting said the two leaders spoke “candidly about their respective priorities and intentions across a range of issues”.

Biden told Xi that the US will compete “vigorously” with China by investing in sources of strength at home and aligning efforts with allies and partners around the world, but this competition “should not veer into conflict and underscored”, reiterating his public remarks earlier, that the United States and China must manage the competition responsibly and maintain open lines of communication.

The US President said the two countries need to work together on common global challenges such as climate change, global macroeconomic stability, including debt relief, health security, and global food security because, he added, the global community expected them to.

Biden also raised the concerns about Taiwan, Xinjiang, Hong Kong and human rights, as expected. On Taiwan, he told Xi that there is no change in US’s one-China policy and that the US opposes “any unilateral changes to the status quo by either side”.

“President Biden also raised ongoing concerns about China’s non-market economic practices, which harm American workers and families, and workers and families around the world,” the readout said, reiterating a significant US concern, which was central to the trade war triggered between the two countries by former President Donald Trump.

The Biden administration’s National Security Strategy issued in October described China as “the only competitor with both the intent to reshape the international order and, increasingly, the economic, diplomatic, military, and technological power to advance that objective”.

Russia, on the other hand, was portrayed as “an immediate threat to the free and open international system, recklessly flouting the basic laws of the international order today, as its brutal war of aggression against Ukraine has shown”.

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