Biden tries to build ‘floor’ for relations with China in Xi meeting

U.S. President Joe Biden hopes to develop competition guidelines for China when he meets with Xi Jinping next week, but he will be honest about the concerns of the United States, including on Taiwan and human rights, said a senior official in the administration on Thursday.

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“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 told reporters in a call on the meeting.

The White House said Biden will hold talks on Monday with Chinese President Xi on the margins of a Group of 20 summit in Indonesia, their first face-to-face meeting since Biden took office as president in January 2021.

Ties between the United States and China have been strained, especially since the trip of the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, to Taiwan, the self-governing democratic island that Beijing claims as its territory.

China is Washington’s number one strategic competitor and the world’s second-largest economy after the United States. The U.S. seeks to maintain stable relations with Beijing despite tensions over Taiwan, the South China Sea, trade, and a host of other issues.

The senior administration official said that there would be no joint statement of a meeting during which there is no expectation for specific agreements.

“I expect the president to be honest about a number of our concerns, including PRC (People’s Republic of China) activities that threaten peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait as well as our longstanding concerns about human rights violations,” the official said.

The war between Russia and Ukraine and North Korea would probably be discussed, the official said.

Biden said on Wednesday he was not prepared to make any fundamental concessions when he met with Xi and that he wanted both leaders to establish their “red lines” and resolve conflict areas, including in Taiwan.

The White House sought to maintain a dialogue that China decided to shut down after Pelosi’s visit in areas such as climate and military-to-military communications, the official said, but it was not expected that the two leaders would be in a position to sit down and solve all their problems.

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The US had taken note of Xi’s “important” remarks concerning the non-use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine. After Xi agreed at a meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz last week that the two leaders opposed their use, the official stated.

Ukraine’s western allies have accused Russia of threatening Ukraine with nuclear weapons, although Moscow denies doing so, and China has avoided criticizing Russia for the invasion or demanding that Moscow withdraw its troops.

The United States and its allies believe North Korea is poised to restart nuclear bomb testing for the first time since 2017 and accused China and Russia of allowing Pyongyang’s missile and bomb programs by not properly applying UN Security Council sanctions to impede them.

While both Russia and China supported tougher sanctions after North Korea’s last nuclear test in May, they vetoed a US-led campaign to impose more UN. sanctions over North Korea’s renewed ballistic missile launches.

Washington believes that China and Russia have the power to convince North Korea not to re-test nuclear bombs.

It is a field in which China and the United States have always worked together… there is a track record of being able to work together. And so I think the president will approach the conversation in that spirit,” the official said.

Xi, who cemented his leadership at a Communist Party convention last month, said the meeting with Biden is taking place while China’s economy is facing tough COVID-19 prevention measures.

Those measures, and Xi’s limited travel abroad since the pandemic began, have meant his previous five meetings with Biden were conducted virtually.

The US official said the two sides were discussing COVID-19 protocols for the meeting but did not elaborate.

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