“Need to increase communication, collaboration”: Xi to “Old Friend” Biden

Speaking from Beijing, Xi called Biden “my old friend” but said rivals should work more closely.

Washington, United States of America:

US President Joe Biden and China’s Xi Jinping launched a virtual summit on Monday, appealing for better communication between the superpowers and “trains” to avoid conflict.

Speaking to Xi from the White House on a television screen, Biden said he should develop “guardrails” to “ensure that competition between our countries is not in conflict, whether intended or unintended.”

He said they would have a “frank” discussion.

Speaking from Beijing, Xi called Biden “my old friend” but said rivals should work more closely.

“China and the United States need to increase communication and cooperation,” he said.

The two leaders have spoken on the phone twice since Biden’s inauguration in January, but with Xi refused to travel abroad because of the pandemic, an online video meeting was the only option for an in-person summit.

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Biden was heading to the summit “from a position of strength” expected to last a few hours, after months of rebuilding alliances with other democracies to control China.

Saki said the meeting is “an opportunity to set the terms of competition with China” and to emphasize the leadership in Beijing is “playing by the rules of the road”.

Much of the focus in the making of the meeting has focused on the dispute over Taiwan, a self-governing democracy claimed by China. Biden’s aides have seen the summit as an opportunity to help keep tensions from escalating.

“Biden will make it clear that we want to build a common railing to avoid miscalculations,” a senior US administration official told reporters on condition of anonymity.

Although the White House tried to play down expectations, the official said the summit “is not a meeting where we expect deliverables to come out.”

A veteran of foreign policy issues during his decades in politics, Biden has often said phone conversations are no substitute for face-to-face meetings.

Xi has not left China for nearly two years, and Biden sharply criticized his absence at the recent COP26 climate summit in Glasgow and the G20 summit in Rome.

Biden gets domestic boost

Relations between the superpowers deteriorated during the presidency of Donald Trump, who launched a trade war with China attacking Beijing’s response to an international investigation into the origins of the Covid pandemic in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

Biden has reframed the confrontation more broadly as a struggle between democracy and autocracy.

He got a boost on Monday when he signed into law a $1.2 trillion infrastructure package, the largest of its kind in more than half a century. Biden described the initiative as an important step in capturing the Chinese government’s years of intense investment, proving that democracies can compete.

“The world is changing,” he said. “We have to be ready.”

While the tone of the day is more measured than in the Trump era, tensions on Taiwan are at risk of escalating into dangerous new territory.

China has intensified military activities near Taiwan in recent years, with a record number of warplanes infiltrating the island’s air defenses in October.

The United States says it supports Taiwan’s self-defense, but is unclear about whether it would directly intervene to help.

“Any collusion and support for ‘Taiwan independence’ forces undermines peace in the Taiwan Straits and will only boomerang in the end,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a telephone call over the weekend. “

And China’s Foreign Ministry on Monday put the responsibility of improving relations on Biden.

“We hope that the United States will work in the same direction as China supports each other,” foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters.

The US administration official indicated that Biden would be “very direct” on “China’s coercive and provocative behavior in relation to Taiwan”.

But the official also emphasized that the two countries have scope for cooperation in various areas such as climate change.

(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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