US and China leaders meet in person for first time in six years to ease tensions

US and China leaders meet in person for first time in six years to ease tensions

On Wednesday, US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping had their first in-person meeting in six years in San Francisco, where they discussed various issues of cooperation and conflict between the world’s two largest economies.

The meeting, which lasted for more than three hours, was held on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit. The two leaders, who have a decade-long acquaintance, had a series of working sessions, covering topics from trade and human rights to Taiwan and regional security.

According to a statement from the White House, Biden told Xi that the US will compete vigorously with China, but also stressed that this competition should not lead to conflict. He emphasized that the US and China need to manage the competition responsibly and keep open lines of communication.

Biden also expressed concerns about China’s actions in Xinjiang, Tibet, and Hong Kong, and human rights in general. He explained in detail that the US one China policy has not changed, but also voiced opposition to China’s coercive and increasingly aggressive behavior toward Taiwan, which threatens peace and stability in the region.

On Taiwan, Xi cautioned Biden that any interference in China’s internal affairs or support for Taiwan’s independence would be “playing with fire”. He said that China will never tolerate anyone to separate Taiwan from the motherland, and urged the US to follow the one China principle and the three joint communiqués.

The two leaders also shared views on key regional and global challenges, such as the crises in Israel and Ukraine, the nuclear threat from North Korea and Iran, the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate crisis, and the global economic recovery.

They agreed to cooperate on some cross-border issues, such as climate change, health security, and countering narcotics trafficking, and to enable key senior officials to maintain communication and deepen constructive efforts on these and other issues.

They also welcomed ongoing efforts to address specific issues in the bilateral relationship, such as resuming military-to-military dialogue, resolving trade disputes, and facilitating people-to-people exchanges.

The meeting was seen as a chance to ease tensions and prevent further escalation between the US and China, which have seen their relationship deteriorate to the lowest level in decades.

However, analysts said that the meeting was unlikely to result in a major breakthrough or a reset in the relationship, which is marked by fundamental differences and strategic rivalry between the two powers.

They said that the meeting was more about managing expectations and avoiding misunderstandings, rather than solving the core problems and conflicts between the two sides.

They also said that the meeting was overshadowed by the ongoing crises in the Middle East and Europe, which have drawn attention and resources away from the US-China agenda.

The meeting was the first face-to-face encounter between Biden and Xi since they last met in 2015, when they were both vice presidents. They have spoken twice by phone since Biden took office in January, but have not been able to meet in person due to the COVID-19 pandemic and travel restrictions.