KEN MORITSUGU and AMER MADHANI
BEIJING (NWN) – China on Tuesday hailed the virtual meeting between President Xi Jinping and US President Joe Biden as inspiring hope for better relations, while the US was more restrained in negotiations as the world’s two largest powers sought to escalate a year of tensions.
The leaders seemed to have abandoned the scathing language at their first formal meeting since Biden took office. Xi greeted the US leader as an “old friend,” and Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said the exchange was frank and constructive.
“If Sino-US relations cannot go back in time, they must look to the future,” Zhao said, calling the meeting “conducive to raising positive expectations … in US-China relations.”
However, both sides have held firm to their positions on the issues dividing Washington and Beijing, with Xi warning that the United States and Taiwan are playing with fire over a self-governing island that China considers part of its territory.
Both countries have sought to end a sharp deterioration in relations that has accelerated under former US President Donald Trump and has festered since Biden took office in January. The videoconference, which lasted more than three hours, took place on Tuesday morning in Beijing and Monday evening in Washington.
Both Biden and Xi seemed determined to bring the temperature down in what is for both sides their most significant – and often turbulent – relationship on the world stage.
“As I said earlier, it seems to me that our responsibility as leaders of China and the United States is to ensure that competition between our countries does not lead to conflict, whether intentional or unintentional,” Biden Xi said at the beginning of the meeting.
The White House had low expectations for the meeting, and no major announcements were made. However, White House officials said there had been a substantive exchange of views between the two leaders.
Xi echoed Biden’s heartfelt tone in his opening remarks, saying, “China and the United States need to increase communication and cooperation.”
The positive tone serves as an example for officials from both countries who are trying to find common ground rather than find fault with each other, whether it be on trade, climate change or geopolitical issues such as Afghanistan and North Korea, said Wang Huyao, president of the Center. for China and Globalization, a think tank in Beijing,
“I see this dialogue as a stabilizer of bilateral relations,” he said. “I don’t expect this summit to take us back to the good old days, but it will certainly stop the downward spiral.”
The US said the leaders of the two countries discussed the Taiwan issue in detail. Tensions have escalated as China has recently sent more fighters to the island and the United States and its allies have sent warships across the Taiwan Strait.
Xi blamed the tension on Taiwan seeking US support for independence, and some from the American side using Taiwan to contain China, China said in a statement following the meeting.
“Such moves are extremely dangerous, just like playing with fire. Anyone who plays with fire will get burns, ”the statement said.
White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said Biden reminded Xi that he voted as Senator for the Taiwan Relations Act, which came into effect in 1979, a law that defines the parameters of US-Taiwan relations.
“He thus deeply understands, first-hand, that this law makes it clear that any effort to shape Taiwan’s future by other means than peaceful means is a serious concern for the United States,” Sullivan said at a webinar hosted by the Brookings Institution. , Washington. think tank, on tuesday.
Last week, the Chinese military held an exercise near Taiwan in response to a visit by a US Congress delegation to the island.
The White House said that Biden has reaffirmed that the US will adhere to its long-standing “one China” policy, which recognizes Beijing as China’s government but allows informal relations and defense ties with Taipei. Biden also made it clear that the US “strongly opposes unilateral efforts to change the status quo or undermine peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait,” the White House said in a statement.
It said that Biden had again raised concerns about China’s human rights practices and made it clear that he was seeking to “protect American workers and industry from (China’s) unfair trade and economic practices.” They also talked about regional issues including North Korea, Afghanistan and Iran.
The meeting could give the relationship a more stable footing in the near future, but both countries still have long-term structural problems to resolve in their relationship, said Paul Henle, a former US official and China expert at Carnegie International Endowment. Peace.
“It really was just an opportunity for the two leaders to clearly articulate their intentions, priorities and concerns about their relationship and begin to really define the terms of a new era in US-China relations,” he said.
At the Roosevelt Hall, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and several aides joined the US President via video link. Xi, for his part, accompanied a number of counselors in the Great East Hall of the Great People’s Hall.
High-level diplomacy had the tinge of Zoom’s pandemic informal meeting, with two leaders waving at each other when they saw each other on screen. Biden would have preferred to meet Xi in person, but the Chinese leader has not left his country since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
Both leaders nodded their stories with the other. Biden noted that the two spent “an awful … long time” talking to each other over the years and never left “wondering what the other man was thinking.”
Xi, who referred to Biden as his “old friend” when the then vice president visited China in 2013, seemed interested in rekindling their relationship from the start, saying, “I’m thrilled to see my old friend.”
But now, when both are heads of state, the public warmth has subsided. Biden bristled in June when a reporter asked if he would pressure an old friend to cooperate with the World Health Organization’s investigation into the origins of the coronavirus.
Despite the tensions, there have been moments of progress in recent months.
At last week’s UN climate talks in Glasgow, Scotland, the two countries pledged to accelerate action to reduce climate-damaging emissions.
The White House said it sees cooperation on climate change as something that the two countries should cooperate on, despite their differences on other issues.
“None of this is a favor to either of our countries – what we do for each other – but it’s just responsible global leadership,” said Biden See. “You are a major world leader, just like the United States.”
Madhani reported from Washington. Associated Press reporters Colleen Long from Washington and Emily Wang and Joe MacDonald in Beijing contributed.