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Biden, Xi to hold virtual bilateral summit

November 13, 2021

The virtual meeting between US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping is politically significant because tensions between the economic rivals remain high.

Joe Biden and Xi Jinping
The White House said "specific deliverables" were unlikely to emerge from talks

China's President Xi Jinping and US President Joe Biden will hold a virtual meeting at the beginning of the week, the Chinese Foreign Ministry announced on Saturday.

The White House first released a statement on the meeting on Friday, saying the two leaders would discuss ways "to responsibly manage" bilateral competition and "to work together where our interests align" on Monday night in Washington/Tuesday morning in Beijing.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters on Friday that the US relationship with China was among the most its consequential. White House press secretary said she "wouldn't set the expectation...that this [meeting] is intended to have major deliverables or outcomes."

China and the US have recently made overtures for future cooperation, with China announcing a climate pact with the US on November 10. However, tensions over Taiwan and trade remain points of concern for both leaders.

The White House statement added that Biden would be clear about US intentions and "concerns with the PRC."

Climate cooperation

On November 10, China's climate envoy Xie Zhenhua announced an ambitious climate pact with the US. Zhenhua made the announcement at the UN climate summit in Glasgow.

Though scant on details for now, the deal reflects a commitment by the two economic rivals to brush aside differences and cooperate on areas of mutual interest.

In a joint statement, Beijing and Washington also agreed to meet regularly to address climate issues.

The pact came after Biden criticized Xi for his lack of leadership in tackling climate change. The Chinese leader did not attend the COP26 climate conference, drawing widespread criticism from world leaders since his country is the world's biggest carbon polluter.

The US and China are the world's top two greenhouse gas emitters — accounting for around 40% of global emissions.

Growing tensions over Taiwan

Tensions have been rising between the United States and China over the democratically governed island of Taiwan.

China sees Taiwan as part of its own territory, destined for eventual reunification with the mainland by force, if necessary.

Biden earlier in October said his country had a "commitment to defend" Taiwan, which US officials later walked back since it broke with the US position of maintaining "strategic ambiguity" when it came to Taiwan.

Biden's comments came after China sent a record number of military jets into Taiwan's air defense zone for four consecutive days, raising tensions between the two.

Biden had also added that he didn't want "a cold war with China," when he made comments about defending Taiwan as it faced growing military pressure from Beijing.

On November 10, Xi warned against a return to Cold War-era tensions in the Asia-Pacific.

"Attempts to draw ideological lines or form small circles on geopolitical grounds are bound to fail," the Chinese leader told leaders at a virtual economic and trade conference hosted by New Zealand. Biden was also present at the conference.

"The Asia-Pacific region cannot and should not relapse into the confrontation and divisions of the Cold War era," Xi added.

rm/sms (Reuters, AP)