Joe Biden and Xi Jinping vow to avoid conflict as they meet ahead of G20 summit

Key points
  • Biden and Xi are expected to discuss the nuclear ambitions of Taiwan, Ukraine and North Korea.
  • They are the first formal talks between China and the United States since Biden became president.
  • Monday’s meeting is unlikely to produce a joint statement, the White House said.
Chinese leader Xi Jinping and US President Joe Biden met on Monday for long-awaited talks that come as relations between their countries are at their lowest level in decades, marked by disagreements over a series of issues from Taiwan to trade.
The two, who held their first in-person talks since Biden became president, met on the Indonesian island of Bali ahead of Tuesday’s Group of 20 (G20) summit that is fraught with tension over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Mr. Biden and Mr. Xi shook hands in front of a row of Chinese and American flags as they met at the luxurious Mulia Hotel on Bali’s Nusa Dua Bay.

“The world has reached a crossroads,” Xi said, promising a “frank” discussion of the issues that have fractured relations between the world’s two major powers.
“The world expects China and the United States to properly handle the relationship,” he said.
For his part, Biden greeted Xi with a smile that belied the growing competition between the nation that defined the last century and a rival seeking to define the next.

Biden said he wanted the United States and China to “manage our differences, prevent competition from turning into conflict.”

They are expected to discuss the nuclear ambitions of Taiwan, Ukraine and North Korea, issues that have also been seen at the G20 which is being held without Russian President Vladimir Putin in attendance.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will represent Putin at the G20 summit – the first since Russia invaded Ukraine in February – after the Kremlin said Putin was too busy to attend. Russia’s Foreign Ministry said a report that Lavrov was taken to hospital after arriving in Bali was fake news.

Xi arrived in Bali for the G20 summit on Monday. Biden arrived late Sunday.
On Sunday, Biden told Asian leaders in Cambodia that US lines of communication with China would remain open to avoid conflict, with tough talks almost certain in the coming days.
Relations have been strained in recent years by rising tensions over issues ranging from Hong Kong and Taiwan to the South China Sea, trade practices and US restrictions on Chinese technology.
But U.S. officials said both Beijing and Washington had made quiet efforts in the past two months to mend ties.
“These meetings don’t happen in isolation, they’re part of a very sustained process,” a Biden administration official said.
“We have been conducting serious, sustained diplomacy—dozens and dozens of hours—behind the scenes.

“I think we’re pleased with the seriousness that both parties have brought to that process.”

A split image.  On the left is Chinese President Xi Jinping.  On the right is the President of the United States, Joe Biden.

Source: AAP, SBS

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told reporters in Bali that the meeting was “intended to stabilize the US-China relationship and create a safer atmosphere for US businesses”.

She said Mr. Biden had been clear with China about national security concerns about restrictions on sensitive U.S. technologies and raised concerns about the reliability of China’s supply chains for commodities such as minerals.

US “unapologetic” defense of Ukraine

Biden and Xi, who have held five phone or video calls since Biden became president in January 2021, last met in person during the Obama administration when Biden was vice president.
Monday’s meeting is unlikely to produce a joint statement, the White House said.
The host of the G20 summit, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, said he hoped the meeting could “provide concrete partnerships that can help the world in its economic recovery.”

However, one of the main topics at the G20 will be Russia’s war in Ukraine and Biden will not be “excused” in his defense of the European nation, US officials said last week.

Xi and Putin have grown closer in recent years, united by their shared distrust of the West, and reaffirmed their partnership just days before Russia invaded Ukraine. But China has been careful not to provide any direct material support that could trigger Western sanctions against it.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang emphasized the “irresponsibility” of nuclear threats during a summit in Cambodia, suggesting China was uncomfortable with strategic partner Russia’s nuclear rhetoric, the Biden administration official said.

The West has accused Russia of making irresponsible statements about the possible use of nuclear weapons since its invasion of Ukraine in February. Russia has in turn accused the West of “provocative” nuclear rhetoric.

Lavrov said on Sunday that the West was “militarizing” Southeast Asia in a bid to contain Russian and Chinese interests, setting the stage for a further confrontation with Western leaders at the G20.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he will address the G20 meeting by video link on Tuesday.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is expected to meet Lavrov at the G20, a Downing Street spokesman said. He is also likely to hold a bilateral meeting with Mr. Biden.
Sunak will call on G20 leaders for coordinated action to address economic instability and the rising cost of living in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, his government said.

The G20, which includes countries ranging from Brazil to India and Germany, represents more than 80 percent of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP) and 60 percent of its population.

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