November 14

By Elliott Davis Jr.

President Joe Biden on Monday both urged partnership and raised objections with China during the first in-person meeting of his presidency with Chinese President Xi Jinping – another instance of him reiterating America’s commitment to global cooperation after strong midterm election results for his party.

The president told Xi during a three-hour summit in Bali, Indonesia, that while the two countries will keep competing “vigorously,” it is important that they work together to address global issues such as climate change and economic stability “because that is what the international community expects,” according to a White House readout of the meeting. Xi himself seemed to agree.

“As leaders of the two major countries, we need to chart the right course for the China-U.S. relationship,” China’s leader said in remarks prior to the meeting, according to a translation shared by the White House. “We need to find the right direction for the bilateral relationship going forward and elevate the relationship.”

Biden, on an overseas trip that included a stop in Egypt for the COP27 climate conference and now his attendance at the Group of 20 summit in Indonesia, has been holding up the results of the midterm elections – a major success overall for his presidency and the Democratic Party – as proof of the “strength and resilience of American democracy” and insisting that the U.S. plans to lead and stay connected across the globe.

“The election held in the United States … has sent a very strong message around the world that the United States is ready to play,” Biden told reporters during a news conference after the meeting with Xi. “The Republicans who have survived along with the Democrats are of the view that we’re going to stay fully engaged in the world and that we, in fact, know what we’re about.”

Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, said in a tweet that a “principal result” of the two rival leaders’ meeting “seems to have been to introduce a much-needed element of diplomacy (above all, by committing to follow-up talks by senior staff on a range of issues) into a relationship that has sharply deteriorated in recent years.”

Biden, however, did hold firm with Xi in raising objections to the People’s Republic of China’s “coercive and increasingly aggressive actions toward Taiwan” as well as its practices in Hong Kong, Tibet and Xinjiang. The president specifically told Xi that the “One China” policy has not changed from the U.S. perspective. Biden told reporters after the summit that he does not believe there is “any imminent attempt” on the horizon for China to invade Taiwan and that there “need not be a new Cold War.”

The two leaders also discussed the Russia-Ukraine war, reiterating their agreement that “a nuclear war should never be fought and can never be won” amid Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent escalatory threats related to the conflict, according to the readout. Biden, though, raised concerns about China’s own “provocative behavior” too.

“I want to make sure that every country abides by the international rules of the road,” Biden said after the meeting, while noting that Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to China to follow up on the conversation with Xi.