Biden and China's Xi met for three hours. Here's what they talked about
Updated November 14, 2022 at 8:17 AM ET
President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping talked for over three hours Monday, in a high stakes meeting, to try and stabilize what has become an increasingly fraught relationship between the two superpowers.
The White House said the two leaders spoke candidly about issues ranging from Taiwan to trade to technology. Biden told Xi that the U.S. would "continue to compete vigorously" with China through investments in the United States and through alliances abroad, according to a White House statement.
The two leaders also "reiterated their agreement that a nuclear war should never be fought and can never be won and underscored their opposition to the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine," nodding to Russian talk of potentially using tactical nuclear weapons in its war against Ukraine, the White House said.
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The two leaders agreed to more talks about global issues like climate, debt relief, health security and food security, the White House said. Secretary of State Antony Blinken plans to visit China to follow up, though no date was given.
Heading into the meeting, Biden had reiterated his call to responsibly manage the emerging competition between the two sides.
"As the leaders of our two nations, we share responsibility in my view to show that China and the U.S. can a mange our differences, prevent competition from becoming anything nearing conflict and to find ways to work together on urgent, global issues that require our mutual cooperation," Biden said to Xi at the start of the meeting.
Xi told Biden that the bilateral relationship currently "is not what the international community expects" and said the leaders need to "elevate the relationship."
"In our meeting today, I'm ready to have a candid — as we always did --have a candid and in-depth exchange of views with you," Xi told Biden.
While the two leaders have met before over the years, this was their first face-to-face meeting since Biden became president. The talks took place just ahead of the G-20 summit.
The White House downplayed expectations for the meeting
The White House has been downplaying expectations for any agreements or joint statements to come out of the meeting given the lack of common ground between the leaders, instead casting it as a chance for some frank talk about the tensions between the two countries.
"He'll have that opportunity to sit, to be totally straightforward and direct and to hear President Xi be totally straightforward and direct in return," Biden's national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters traveling on Air Force One to Bali.
The White House hopes the leaders "come out of that meeting with a better understanding and a way to responsibly manage this relationship and the competition," Sullivan said.
The meeting comes on heels of the midterm elections, where Democrats held the Senate and narrowed their losses in the House of Representatives, giving Biden a lift heading into his international travels. Sullivan said leaders who met with Biden at stops in Egypt and Cambodia were keenly aware of the midterm results.
In Beijing, at the recently concluded Party Congress, Xi consolidated his power, securing a third term as head of China's ruling Communist Party and appointing his loyalists into top political and military positions. But he also faces a weak domestic economy that has cratered in large part to strict zero-COVID policies and dramatic property regulations championed by Xi.
Xi has indicated he is looking to appease an otherwise-fraught relationship with the U.S. "China stands ready to work with the United States to find the right way to get along with each other," he said in a congratulatory message during a gala dinner at the U.S. nonprofit, the National Committee on United States-China Relations.
Yet China has been pushing for the U.S. to agree to a litany of political demands the U.S. has either said or indicated are nonnegotiable.
Last year, China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi presented a list of three core demands to American diplomats in the Chinese port city of Tianjin. Among them: not to interfere with China's political system, to not hinder China's development, and to respect Beijing's claims over territories like Hong Kong or the democratic island of Taiwan.
The latter has been one of the biggest flashpoints in the relationship is the self-governed island of Taiwan. Beijing has long claimed Taiwan as its own, and has said that, while it prefers to unify peacefully, it will use force, if needed. Biden has made a series of provocative statements about whether the U.S. was prepared to defend Taiwan — though the White House has insisted its position has not wavered from long-held policy on the island.
The White House has insisted going into the Xi-Biden meeting that President Biden's focus was not about finding common ground, but rather ensuring lines of communication remained open in the future.
"I think it's more, how can we find ways to communicate about those issues where we have deep fundamental differences of perspective or concerns, but we need to be having continued and ongoing conversation," said a senior administration official briefing reporters before Biden met with Xi.
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