Biden and Xi meeting, G20 summit in Bali
US President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping are meeting for the first time face-to-face since Biden took office in 2021 in an opportunity for the two leaders to discuss major points of tension and seek to find ways to keep open communication, while locked in great power competition.
Biden told a news conference last week that he wants to “lay out what each of our red lines are” when he sits down with Xi. The White House reiterated this aim with a statement saying “the leaders will discuss efforts to maintain and deepen lines of communication … responsibly manage competition, and work together where our interests align.”
Beijing’s Foreign Ministry said it was important for the two sides to “properly manage differences,” “avoid misunderstanding and miscalculation” and bring China-US relations back to “the right track.” But China would also “firmly defend (its) sovereignty, security and development interests,” a spokesperson said when asked about the meeting at a regular briefing last week.
Both leaders are entering the sit-down with momentum from their respective domestic politics behind them. Last month, Xi secured a norm-shattering third term surrounded by close allies, while Biden arrived in Asia over the weekend fresh from better-than-expected mid-term election results for his party.
Here’s what’s expected to be on the table:
Better communication: Both sides have expressed interest in improving communication and reducing the risk of a misunderstanding that could flare tensions or even see the two powers veer into conflict. In August, China cut off dialogue with the United States in a number of areas in response to a visit from US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan.
Taiwan: The self-governing, democratic island — one of the most contentious issues between Biden and Xi — is expected to a key area of discussion between the two leaders. Xi has pledged to “reunify” the island, which Beijing has never controlled, with the mainland. Biden has enraged Beijing by saying the United States had an obligation to protect Taiwan should China move on it — in a seeming departure from long-standing US policy.
War in Ukraine: A conflict looming large over the G20, Xi and Biden are likely to look for points of agreement on the conflict in Ukraine. China has claimed neutrality, but has refused to condemn Russia’s aggression. Biden may seek to push for Xi to use his close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin to press for peace.
North Korea: North Korea’s ongoing provocations in the region through its ramping up of missile tests is another subject likely to be on the table. The US is also looking for China to assert its influence to prevent further conflict here.
Human rights: Biden is expected to raise US concerns about China’s human rights record. The US accuses China of committing genocide against the Muslim minority population in the western Xinjiang region.