Biden and Xi meet amid tensions between superpowers


NUSA DUA, Indonesia — President Joe Biden will sit down with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday for their first face-to-face meeting since the US president took office nearly two years ago, amid mounting tensions between the two superpowers as they compete for global influence. .

Both men come to the much-anticipated meeting – held on the sidelines of Indonesia’s Group of 20 World Leaders – with enhanced political status at home. Democrats triumphantly retained control of the Senate, with a chance to increase their ranks by one in a runoff election in Georgia next month, while Xi received a third five-year term from the Community Party’s national congress in October, a term of office. who broke with tradition.

“We have very few misunderstandings,” Biden told reporters in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where he attended a meeting of Southeast Asian countries before leaving for Indonesia. “We just need to figure out where the red lines are and… what the most important things are for each of us to go into the next two years.”

Biden added: “His circumstances have changed, to say the obvious, at home.” The president said of his own situation: “I know I will come out stronger.”

White House officials have repeatedly tried to downplay any idea of ​​a conflict between the two nations and have emphasized that they believe the two countries can work together on shared challenges such as climate change and health security.

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But relations between the US and China have become increasingly tense during Biden’s presidency.

Before leaving Washington, Biden said he planned to discuss with Xi the differences in their approach to the self-governing island of Taiwan, trade practices and China’s relationship with Moscow amid the nearly nine-month-old invasion of Ukraine. Chinese officials have largely abstained from public criticism of the Russian war, although Beijing has avoided direct aid such as supplying weapons.

Taiwan has emerged as one of the most controversial issues between Washington and Beijing. Several times during his presidency, Biden has said that the US would defend the island — which China looked forward to eventual unification — in the event of a Beijing-led invasion. But government officials have insisted each time that the US attitude of “strategic ambiguity” towards the island has not changed.

Tensions flared even higher when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., visited Taiwan in August, prompting China to retaliate with military exercises and firing ballistic missiles into nearby waters.

The Biden administration also last month blocked the export of advanced computer chips to China — a move intended to strengthen US competition against Beijing and was swiftly condemned by Chinese officials.

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And while the two men made five phone or video calls during Biden’s presidency, White House officials say those meetings are not a substitute for Biden to meet and assess Xi in person. That task is all the more important after Xi strengthened his grip on power through the party congress, leading US officials to seek direct involvement with Xi as lower-ranking officials were unable or unwilling to speak on behalf of the Chinese president.

Many of Biden’s conversations and appointments during his three-country tour — which took him to Egypt and Cambodia before landing on the island of Bali on Sunday — were intended to prepare him for his meeting with Xi and send a signal that the US would compete in areas where Xi has also worked to expand his country’s influence.

In Phnom Penh, Biden sought to assert US influence and involvement in a region where China is also on the rise and where many countries feel ties to Beijing. He also asked for input on what to discuss with Xi in talks with leaders from Japan, South Korea and Australia.

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The two men have a history dating back to Biden’s time as vice president, when he embarked on an introductory mission with Xi, then the vice president of China, on trips that took Xi to Washington and Biden via travels on the Tibetan Plateau. The US president has emphasized that he knows Xi well and that he wants to use this face-to-face meeting to better understand where the two men stand.

Biden liked to drop references to his talks with Xi in his travels around the US ahead of the midterm elections, using the Chinese leader’s preference for autocratic rule to make his own plea to voters on why democracy would prevail. That view was somewhat corroborated on the global stage, as White House aides said several world leaders approached Biden while he was in Cambodia to tell him that they were closely monitoring the results of the midterm elections and that the results were a triumph for were democracy.

Biden planned to make public comments and answer questions from reporters after his meeting with Xi.

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