PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — President Biden will hold his first in-person presidential meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday in Bali ahead of the Group of 20 summit next week.
“The Leaders will discuss efforts to maintain and deepen lines of communication between the United States and the [People’s Republic of China], responsibly manage competition, and work together where our interests align, especially on transnational challenges that affect the international community,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement Thursday. “The two Leaders will also discuss a range of regional and global issues.”
The meeting comes after months of speculation over whether the two leaders would meet at the global summit of the world’s most powerful governments. It will come as the U.S.-China relationship has reached one of its lowest points in decades. Biden’s national security strategy identified China as “America’s most consequential geopolitical challenge,” noting that the president was particularly worried about the country’s efforts to “layer authoritarian governance with a revisionist foreign policy.”
A senior administration official said on a call with reporters that White House aides expect the meeting to be a “substantive and in-depth conversation” between the two leaders but did not anticipate substantive progress on major issues. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to preview the meeting, also said Biden would be “honest” about a “number of concerns,” including long-standing human rights issues.
Instead, the official said, White House officials view the meeting as an effort for Biden and Xi to understand each other’s priorities and establish a “floor” for the relationship to ensure lines of communication remain open at times of tension.
The senior official added that the White House found it notable that Xi warned against the use of nuclear weapons — viewed as a clear signal to Russian President Vladimir Putin — and urged Germany to push for peace talks in the Russia-Ukraine war.
Xi is at a moment of great political strength after securing an unprecedented third five-year term, concentrating power to a degree not seen since the days of Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping. He has also positioned his country defiantly against the West.
Yet Biden is also entering the meeting in a stronger position than most anticipated after Democrats outperformed expectations in Tuesday’s midterm elections, helping him tamp down Democratic calls for him to consider ending his presidency after one term.
Biden on Wednesday was asked about his meeting with Xi and what he was hoping to get out of it.
“I’m not willing to make any fundamental concessions,” he said during a news conference, before citing some of his previous meetings with the Chinese leader.
“I’ve told him: I’m looking for competition — not conflict,” he said.
Biden said he hoped he and Xi can outline what red lines each countries have that are critical to their national interests, to determine whether they are in conflict and how to resolve them.
“I’m sure we’ll discuss … Taiwan, and I’m sure we’ll discuss a number of other issues, including fair trade and relationships relating to his relationship with other countries in the region,” Biden said. “So there’s a lot we’re going to have to discuss.”
Asked specifically if he would tell Xi that he is committed to defending Taiwan, Biden responded, “I’m going to have that conversation with him.”
The U.S.-China relationship has faced additional tensions in recent months after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) visited Taiwan in August. Xi asked Biden days before Pelosi’s visit to find a way to keep the speaker, who is second in line to the presidency, from visiting, after Chinese officials issued myriad warnings to U.S. counterparts of what China might do in retaliation for the visit to the self-governing island that Beijing considers part of its territory.
After Pelosi’s visit, China said it would cancel or suspend dialogue with the United States on issues including climate change, military relations and anti-drug efforts. U.S. officials said at the time that China was punishing the world by halting climate talks, including vulnerable nations in the Indo-Pacific.
But Biden has also put China on edge over the issue of Taiwan with his own remarks. On several occasions, Biden has said the United States is ready to defend Taiwan if it faces an unprecedented attack or invasion from China, but has said he does not support the island nation’s independence.
Viser reported from Washington. Ellen Nakashima in Washington contributed to this report.