Biden and Xi Find Common Ground in California Meeting

US President Biden and President Xi Jinping of China held a rare face-to-face meeting on Wednesday, seeking to ease tensions and find areas of cooperation amid a host of thorny issues that have strained the world’s most important bilateral relationship.

The two leaders met for more than three hours at a resort in the San Francisco Bay Area, where they discussed a range of topics, including the conflicts in Israel and Ukraine, the climate crisis, the Covid-19 pandemic, trade and technology disputes, human rights abuses in Xinjiang and Hong Kong, and the rising military tensions over Taiwan and the South China Sea.

The meeting, which took place on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit, was only the second time that Mr. Biden and Mr. Xi have met in person since Mr. Biden took office in January. Their first meeting was in November 2022 at the G20 summit in Rome, where they agreed to hold a virtual summit to follow up on their discussions.

The White House said the meeting was “candid, constructive and respectful,” and that both leaders reaffirmed their commitment to ensuring “competition does not veer into conflict.” The Chinese Foreign Ministry said the meeting was “warm and friendly,” and that both sides agreed to “respect each other’s core interests and major concerns, and avoid misjudgment and miscalculation.”

The meeting did not produce any major breakthroughs or deliverables, but both sides announced some modest steps to improve communication and cooperation. They agreed to resume military-to-military dialogue, which had been suspended by China last year after then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan. They also agreed to establish a working group on climate change, which will meet regularly to coordinate actions and policies ahead of the COP27 summit in Egypt next year. They also agreed to enhance cooperation on combating the opioid crisis, which has been fueled by the influx of synthetic drugs from China.

One of the most urgent issues that Mr. Biden raised with Mr. Xi was the escalating violence in the Middle East, where Israel and Hamas have been engaged in a deadly war since last week. Mr. Biden urged Mr. Xi to use his influence to persuade Iran, a key ally of Hamas, to refrain from further provoking Israel and to support a cease-fire. Mr. Xi said China was willing to play a constructive role in promoting peace and stability in the region, and called for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Another issue that dominated the meeting was the situation in Ukraine, where Russia has amassed tens of thousands of troops near the border, raising fears of a possible invasion. Mr. Biden warned Mr. Xi that any Russian aggression would have serious consequences, and asked for China’s support in pressuring Moscow to de-escalate. Mr. Xi said China was concerned about the tensions in Ukraine, and urged all parties to resolve their differences through dialogue and diplomacy.

The meeting also touched on the sensitive issue of Taiwan, which China considers a breakaway province that must be reunited with the mainland, by force if necessary. Mr. Biden reiterated the US’s longstanding policy of supporting Taiwan’s self-defense and maintaining the status quo across the Taiwan Strait. He also expressed his concern about China’s increasing military activities and coercion around the island, which have raised the risk of miscalculation and conflict. Mr. Xi said Taiwan was China’s internal affair, and warned the US not to interfere or send wrong signals to the pro-independence forces in Taiwan.

The two leaders also discussed the challenges and opportunities of trade and technology, which have been a source of friction and competition between the two countries. Mr. Biden raised his concerns about China’s unfair trade practices, such as forced technology transfer, intellectual property theft, and market access barriers. He also expressed his determination to protect US national security and technological edge from China’s growing influence and capabilities. Mr. Xi said China was committed to opening up its market and improving its business environment, and hoped the US would lift its restrictions on Chinese companies and products. He also said China was willing to cooperate with the US on innovation and digital economy, as long as it was based on mutual respect and benefit.

The meeting also addressed the human rights situation in China, which has been a source of criticism and condemnation from the US and other Western countries. Mr. Biden raised his concerns about the repression of the Uyghur minority in Xinjiang, the crackdown on democracy and freedom in Hong Kong, and the detention of American and Canadian citizens in China. He urged Mr. Xi to respect the universal rights and values of the Chinese people, and to release the detained individuals. Mr. Xi said China was opposed to any interference in its internal affairs, and defended its policies and actions as necessary to safeguard its sovereignty, security, and development. He also accused the US of violating human rights at home and abroad, and said China would not accept any lecturing or preaching from the US.

The meeting ended with a handshake and a smile, as both leaders expressed their hope for a more stable and constructive relationship between the two countries. They agreed to keep in touch and continue their dialogue on various issues of mutual interest and concern. They also invited each other to visit their respective countries at a suitable time in the future.

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