President Joe Biden met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in person for the first time in his presidency Monday, engaging in a three-hour conversation intended to iron out tensions about Ukraine and Taiwan, among other issues.
Biden told Xi that the U.S. intends to “compete vigorously” with China by investing in domestic production, but that the two superpowers need to work together on issues like climate change, health security and global food security. The president also raised concerns about China’s abuse of human rights and stressed their mutual agreement that Russia and North Korea should not use nuclear weapons.
Based on the meeting minutes and Biden’s remarks afterwards, it is not clear if Biden pressed Xi about the COVID-19 lab leak theory. Reporters had asked White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre if Biden would discuss the issue. In response, she said the administration was “not going to get ahead of the agenda of what they’re going to discuss,” but that the White House would “share the conversation and what came up.”
“As the leaders of our two nations, we share responsibility, in my view, to show that China and the United States can manage our differences, prevent competition from becoming anything ever near conflict, and to find ways to work together on urgent global issues that require our mutual cooperation,” Biden said at the beginning of the meeting in Bali, Indonesia. (RELATED: Biden’s New China Strategy Is Hamstrung By Competing Democratic Priorities, Experts Say)
Xi said he looks “forward” to working with Biden “to bring China-U.S. relations back to the track of healthy and stable growth to the benefit of our two countries and the world as a whole.”
The bilateral meeting comes amid heightened tensions about Taiwan, including Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s August visit to the island, and China’s refusal to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The president reiterated after the meeting with Xi that the American “one China policy” remains in place.
“I made it clear that our policy on Taiwan has not changed at all,” Biden said.
Biden named strategic competition with China as the “most pressing strategic challenge” the U.S. faces in the administration’s National Security Strategy, describing China as a power that combines “authoritarian governance with a revisionist foreign policy.”