WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping stressed their responsibility to the rest of the world to avoid conflict as the heads of the two top global economies opened their closely watched talks on Monday.
“It seems to me our responsibility as leaders of China and the United States is to ensure that our competition between our countries does not veer into conflict, whether intended or unintended,” Biden said.
“Just simple, straightforward competition.”
Calling Biden an “old friend,” Xi said the two sides must increase communication and cooperation to solve the many challenges they face.
Speaking through an interpreter, Xi said: “As the world’s two largest economies and the permanent members of the UN Security Council, China and the United States need to increase communication and cooperation.”
Biden promised to address areas of concern, including human rights and other issues in the Indo-Pacific region, adding that “you and I have never been that formal with one another.”
The talks, which were initiated by Biden and began at 7:46 pm on Monday (0046 GMT Tuesday), were intended to make the relationship less acrimonious. The US president smiled broadly as the Chinese president appeared on a large screen in the conference room.
The early moments of the two leaders’ dialogue were observed by a small group of reporters with Biden in the White House’s Roosevelt Room before the heads of state and top aides spoke privately in a meeting US officials expected to stretch for several hours.
The two sides took a short break after a nearly two-hour first session, according to a report from Chinese state media.
Biden and Xi have not had a face-to-face meeting since Biden became president and the last time they spoke it was via telephone in September.
The United States and China disagree on the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic, trade and competition rules, Beijing’s expanding nuclear arsenal and its stepped-up pressure on Taiwan, among other issues.
US officials have downplayed expectations for any concrete agreements between both sides, including on trade, where China is lagging in a commitment to buy $200 billion more in US goods and services. Not on Biden’s agenda are US tariffs on Chinese goods that Beijing and business groups hope to be scaled back.
It seems to me our responsibility as leaders of China and the United States is to ensure that our competition between our countries does not veer into conflict
Joe BidenUS President