US President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping are meeting face-to-face for the first time since Biden took office in 2021, an opportunity for the two leaders to discuss key points of tension and seek ways to maintain open communication, while locked in high-powered competition.
Biden said at a press conference last week that he wanted to “expose every one of our red lines” when he sits down with Xi. The White House reiterated that goal in a statement saying that “leaders will discuss efforts to maintain and deepen lines of communication…responsibly manage competition and work together where our interests align.”
Beijing’s foreign ministry said it was important for the two sides to “handle differences properly”, “avoid misunderstandings and miscalculations” and get China-US relations back on “the right track”. But China “will firmly defend (its) sovereignty, security and development interests,” a spokesman said when asked about the meeting during a regular briefing last week.
Both leaders enter the session with the momentum of their respective domestic policies behind them. Last month, Xi secured a groundbreaking third term surrounded by close allies, while Biden arrived in Asia over the weekend after better-than-expected midterm election results for his party.
Here’s what should be on the table:
Communicate better: Both sides have expressed interest in improving communication and reducing the risk of a misunderstanding that could inflame tensions or even see the two powers tip into conflict. In August, China halted dialogue with the United States in a number of areas in response to a visit by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan.
Taiwan: The democratic and self-governing island – one of the most contentious issues between Biden and Xi – is expected to be a key area of discussion between the two leaders. Xi has pledged to “reunify” the island, which Beijing has never controlled, with the mainland. Biden enraged Beijing by saying the United States had an obligation to protect Taiwan if China took action, which appears to be a departure from long-standing US policy.
War in Ukraine: A conflict looming over the G20, Xi and Biden are likely to seek points of agreement on the conflict in Ukraine. China claimed neutrality, but refused to condemn Russian aggression. Biden may seek to push Xi to use his close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin to push for peace.
North Korea: Another topic likely to be on the table is North Korea’s continued provocations in the region through its ramp-up of missile testing. The United States is also looking to China to assert its influence to prevent further conflict here.
Human rights: Biden is expected to raise US concerns about China’s human rights record. The United States accuses China of committing genocide against the Muslim minority population in the western region of Xinjiang.