First face-to-face meeting between both leaders . . .
On Monday, US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping met on the margins of the G20 gathering in Bali, Indonesia. Their first in-person bilateral meeting as presidents was highly anticipated as U.S.-China relations have significantly deteriorated in recent years, perhaps even reaching the lowest point in decades. They discussed a wide range of thorny issues, from North Korea, Russia, and cross-strait relations, to human rights, trade, and technology transfer. They agreed to resume a series of high-level working groups and dialogues to keep the conversation going.
Biden and Xi lay down positions . . .
The goal of the meeting was to stabilize bilateral relations by relaunching communication channels and ensuring that both countries can collaborate on urgent global challenges. The three-hour meeting allowed both leaders to reiterate and clarify their positions. Biden indicated that the U.S. was going to “compete vigorously” with China without looking for conflict. He reiterated the U.S. position on Taiwan and pushed China on Russia and North Korea. Xi responded that Taiwan is a core interest for China, refused to condemn Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and reaffirmed that China is committed to advancing the country’s modernization through a different path than the U.S.'s. He stated, however, that the current state of tense U.S.-China relations is not in the interests of either country.
Good optics, but no concrete results . . .
While nothing substantial was agreed on, the meeting nonetheless marks a new phase in U.S.-China relations – one where both powers will seek to manage their competitive relationship. Many world leaders expressed relief at the outcome of the meeting, and Chinese stock markets rallied significantly on Tuesday, partly on the positive tone of the meeting. But experts caution against broad optimism, as they expect the U.S. and China will clash again. Time will tell if the resumption of high-level talks will help the two countries work together on global issues and mitigate future conflict.