By Alex Willemyns
U.S. President Joe Biden says he and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, will discuss their respective “red lines” during a meeting on Monday before the Group of 20 leaders summit in Bali.
The face-to-face meeting will be the first between the pair since Biden came to office, and comes in the wake of the Communist Party congress in Beijing that reappointed Xi to a third term in power and this week’s midterm elections in the United States.
Tensions in the U.S.-China relationship have flared since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan in August.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken last month said Beijing was aiming to take over Taiwan “on a much faster timeline” than before, and a senior military official said that could happen as early as next year. Relations have also been complicated by new U.S. microchip export controls.
Biden told a press conference on Wednesday that his focus for the meeting with Xi will be on “competition, not conflict,” but that he was also “not willing to make any fundamental concessions.”
“What I want to do with him when we talk is lay out what each of our red lines are and understand what he believes to be in the critical national interests of China,” Biden said, adding that if they clashed with U.S. interests, they would broach “how to work it out.”
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Thursday that the face-to-face meeting would take place on Monday, before G20 leaders gather for their annual pow-wow on the Indonesian island.
A senior administration official added that topics that would be addressed included Taiwan, North Korea’s recent missile launches, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the status of the U.S.-China relationship itself.
“The president believes it is critical to build a floor for the relationship and ensure that there are rules of the road that bound our competition,” the official said. “It’s also ensuring that we’re working together on areas where our interests align, especially transnational challenges that affect the international community.”
But the talks would otherwise be informal, the official said.
“There’s not going to be a joint statement,” the official said. “This is really not a meeting that’s being driven by deliverables.”
Speaking at a Carnegie Endowment for International Peace event on Thursday, Evan S. Medeiros, the Cling Family Distinguished Fellow in U.S.-China Relations at Georgetown University, said it was clear why Biden was making a concerted effort to repair U.S.-China ties.
“Nobody in Asia wants to choose between the United States and China – it’s the great strategic truism of this new era of U.S.-China strategic competition,” Medeiros said, explaining that recalcitrance from the United States would be interpreted poorly across Asia.
“Biden needs to signal that he wants to pursue stability in the U.S.-China relationship,” Medeiros said, “that he’s not committed to long-term rivalry, and that he wants to manage problems.”