Biden and China’s Xi to Meet Face-to-Face on Monday
Taiwan, Ukraine, and microchips are the likely topics, official says.
President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping will meet in person for the first time as counterpart heads of state on Monday in Bali, Indonesia, during the G-20 meeting, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre announced. Biden’s key objective is to rebuild a “floor for the relationship,” a senior administration official told reporters on Thursday.
Biden is scheduled to depart Washington on Thursday evening for a week-long international trip in arguably one of his strongest positions, politically, this year. He is scheduled to attend the COP27 climate conference in Egypt on Friday before continuing on to a U.S.-ASEAN summit with Asian leaders in Cambodia, and then the G-20. The president’s meeting with Xi would come just days after Democrats in his party outperformed nationwide expectations in the U.S. midterm elections and Russian forces retreated from the key city of Kherson, in Ukraine, largely because of the continued weapons and assistance packages supplied by the Biden administration.
In recent weeks, administration officials have called China a threat and competitor in the long-awaited National Security Strategy and the National Defense Strategy documents that guide major defense, intelligence, and diplomatic decisions and spending. Critics have accused the administration of not doing enough to prepare the United States and allies for a war.
Biden on Wednesday said, "What I want to do with [Xi] when we talk is lay out … what each of our red lines are, understand what he believes to be in the critical national interests of China, what I know to be the critical interests of the United States, and to determine whether or not they conflict with one another.”
The senior official said that one of the “main objectives is really about deepening … their understanding of one another as priorities and intentions…with a goal of reducing misunderstanding and misperceptions.”
In addition to human rights and what the official described as China’s “harmful economic practices,” Biden will also discuss Taiwan with Xi. Following House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan in August, China cut off key lines of communication with Washington. The senior official said that “reducing misunderstanding and misperceptions … and ensuring that we can have ongoing lines of communication,” would also be on Biden’s agenda.
The official also expected Biden to be “honest and direct with President Xi” about China’s continued support of Russia, as in other discussions between the two leaders, particularly during a nearly two-hour video call in March.
The presidential meeting comes weeks after Xi secured a third term as the general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, setting the 69 year-old up for life-long rule after years of steadily consolidating power.
The Chinese leader has shown signs he’s worried about the Russian Ukraine conflict escalating beyond Ukraine’s borders. During a September meeting with Xi, Russian President Vladimir Putin was forced to acknowledge that Xi had several “concerns” about the direction of the war. Last week, Xi and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, stated they jointly opposed the use of nuclear weapons in the conflict.
Those concerns about possible nuclear weapon use reflect “a long standing principle that China has” according to the official.
Biden, for his part, has also taken new steps against China in recent weeks. In addition to the defense and security strategies that target China, the administration has imposed new export controls that block chipmakers like Nvidia and AMD from selling sophisticated chips to China for artificial intelligence and supercomputing. But they also block U.S. passport holders from working on advanced chip design for Chinese companies. Those provisions have impacted the Chinese chip industry significantly, sending it “back to the stone age” according to one Chinese banking official who spoke to The Financial Times.
The administration's export controls and other U.S. economic policies have been likened by critics as a broader containment strategy against China, invoking Cold War-era policies toward communism in Asia.
“Our policy is not containment,” said the senior official. “I think on the recent semiconductor actions, we've been quite clear that our concern is with certain high-end technologies that feed into Beijing's development of high-end military applications. And it's a targeted approach. It is an approach that is specifically driven by those national-security and military concerns and is not something that is more broadly targeted at somehow having a broader impact on China's economy or on the Chinese people,” said the official.