Biden to Meet Xi Jinping at G20 in First Face-to-Face Talks as President

President Joe Biden will meet his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, on the sidelines of the G20 summit in their first face-to-face talks. Biden hopes the meeting on Monday will allow him to build a “floor” for relations between the two countries.

But Biden is expected to also be honest about U.S. concerns, including on Taiwan and human rights. Taiwan, human rights, and North Korea are expected to be discussed as Biden seeks to “build a floor” for the bilateral relationship. 

The White House spokesperson, Karine Jean-Pierre, said in a statement: “The leaders will discuss efforts to maintain and deepen lines of communication,” as well as how to “responsibly manage competition and work together where our interests align, especially on transnational challenges”.

It will be the first time that Biden has met with Xi face-to-face since becoming president. The two presidents have spoken by phone a number of times over the past 22 months, but the Covid pandemic and Xi’s aversion to foreign travel have prevented them from meeting in person.

The two leaders met in person before, the last time being during the Obama administration when Biden was Vice President. Since then, U.S. ties with China have slumped to their lowest level in decades. 

One big moment that sticks out is when U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi took a trip to Taiwan in August. Beijing claims the self-governed democratic island is its territory. 

The Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, Zhao Lijian has already blamed the U.S. for initiating discord. 

He told a press conference today that “the root cause of the tensions in the Taiwan Strait is that the Taiwan authorities have been soliciting US support to seek ‘Taiwan independence’, and that some people in the US intend to use the Taiwan question to contain China. It is moves like this that are undermining the peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.”

Yesterday, Zhao urged the U.S. to “stop fudging, distorting and hollowing out the one-China principle.” He said China will firmly defend its sovereignty, security, and development interests. 

Experts say the meeting is an opportunity to dial down the tensions. 

Some say that China has been signaling that it wants to avoid a further deterioration in relations, but that it is unclear what it is willing to do in order to achieve that objective. 

The meeting comes at a crucial moment in ties between the U.S. and China. Both have a massive investment and trade relationship but are also challenging each other’s military and diplomatic influence, especially in the Asia-Pacific region.

They also face a potential flashpoint over Taiwan, a close ally of the US that Xi has made clear he believes should be under Beijing’s control.

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