the main points
- Biden and Mr. Xi are expected to discuss the nuclear ambitions of Taiwan, Ukraine and North Korea.
- It is the first official talks between China and the United States since Biden became president.
- The White House said Monday’s meeting was unlikely to result in a joint statement.
Chinese leader Xi Jinping and US President Joe Biden met on Monday for long-awaited talks that come as relations between their two countries are at their lowest point in decades, marred by disagreements over a range of issues from Taiwan to trade.
The two, who held their first personal talks since Biden became president, met on the Indonesian island of Bali ahead of Tuesday’s G20 summit that is set to be fraught with tensions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Biden and Mr. Xi shook hands in front of a row of Chinese and American flags when they met at the luxurious Mulia Hotel in Bali’s Nusa Dua Bay.
“The world has come to a crossroads,” Xi said, vowing to hold a “frank” discussion of the issues that tore ties between the world’s two major powers.
“The world expects that China and the United States will properly deal with relations,” he said.
Biden, for his part, greeted Mr. Xi with a smile that contrasted the growing competition between the nation that defined the last century and a rival seeking to define the next.
Biden said he wants the United States and China to “manage our differences, and prevent competition from turning into conflict.”
They are expected to discuss the nuclear ambitions of Taiwan, Ukraine and North Korea, issues that will loom over the G-20, which will be 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. The Russian Foreign Ministry said that the news that Lavrov had been taken to hospital after arriving in Bali was false.
Xi arrived in Bali for the G20 summit earlier on Monday. Mr. Biden arrived late on Sunday.
On Sunday, Biden told Asian leaders in Cambodia that US lines of communication with China would remain open to prevent conflict, with tough talks almost certain in the coming days.
Relations have been soured in recent years by rising tensions over issues ranging from Hong Kong and Taiwan to the South China Sea, and US trade practices and restrictions on Chinese technology.
But US officials said there have been quiet efforts by both Beijing and Washington over the past two months to mend ties.
“These meetings are not held in isolation, they are part of a very sustainable process,” said a Biden administration official.
“We’ve been engaged in serious and sustained diplomacy – dozens and dozens of hours – of quiet diplomacy behind the scenes.
“I think we are satisfied with the seriousness that both sides have brought to this process.”
US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told reporters in Bali that the meeting was “aimed at stabilizing the relationship between the United States and China, and creating a more reassuring atmosphere for American companies.”
She said Biden has been clear with China about national security concerns regarding restrictions on sensitive US technologies and has raised concerns about the reliability of Chinese supply chains for commodities such as metals.
US ‘unapologetic’ defense of Ukraine
Biden and Mr. Xi, who have made five phone calls or video calls since Biden became president in January 2021, met in person during the Obama administration when Biden was vice president.
The White House said Monday’s meeting was unlikely to result in a joint statement.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo, host of the G20 summit, said he hoped the meeting could “offer concrete partnerships that can help the world in its economic recovery”.
However, US officials said last week that one of the main topics at the G-20 would be Russia’s war in Ukraine, and Biden would be “unapologetic” in his defense of the European country.
Linked to their mutual mistrust in the West, Mr. Xi and Putin have become increasingly close in recent years, reasserting their partnership just days before Russia invaded Ukraine. But China was careful not to provide any direct material support that could lead to Western sanctions against it.
A Biden administration official said Chinese Premier Li Keqiang stressed the “irresponsibility” of nuclear threats during the summit in Cambodia, indicating that China is not comfortable with Russia’s strategic partner’s nuclear rhetoric.
The West has accused Russia of making irresponsible statements about the possible use of nuclear weapons since its invasion of Ukraine in February. Russia, in turn, accused the West of “provocative” nuclear rhetoric.
On Sunday, Lavrov said the West was “militarizing” Southeast Asia in a bid to contain Russian and Chinese interests, paving the way for further confrontation with Western leaders in the G20.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he will address the G20 meeting via video link on Tuesday.
A Downing Street spokesman said he is expected to meet British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak Lavrov at the G20 summit. He is also likely to hold a bilateral meeting with Biden.
His government said Sunak would call on G20 leaders to take coordinated action to tackle economic instability and the rising cost of living in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The G-20, which includes countries ranging from Brazil to India and Germany, accounts for more than 80 percent of the world’s gross domestic product and 60 percent of its population.