Joe Biden and Xi Jinping seek to ‘manage our differences’ as they meet for the first time ahead of G20

Chinese leader Xi Jinping and US President Joe Biden shook hands as they met for long-awaited talks amid increasing economic and security tensions between the two superpowers as they compete for global influence.

The two leaders held their first in-person talks on Monday since Mr Biden became president nearly two years ago, meeting on the Indonesian island of Bali ahead of a G20 summit on Tuesday that is set to be fraught with tension over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Mr Biden and Mr Xi have held five phone or video calls since since the American president took office in January 2021, but last met in person during the Obama administration when Mr Biden was vice president.

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Stood in front of a row of Chinese and US flags, they smiled for photographers and exchanged pleasantries as they greeted each other at the luxury hotel Mulia on Nusa Dua bay in Bali.

“We spent a lot of time together back in the day when we were both vice presidents and it’s just great to see you,” Mr Biden told Mr Xi as he put an arm around him.

US President Joe Biden (R) and China's President Xi Jinping (L) meet on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Nusa Dua on the Indonesian resort island of Bali on November 14, 2022. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)
Mr Biden and Mr Xi aim to ‘manage’ differences amid increasing economic and security tensions
([email protected] Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

They were expected to discuss Taiwan, Ukraine and North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, issues that will also loom over the G20 summit that is being held without Russian President Vladimir Putin in attendance.

Mr Xi and Mr Putin have grown increasingly close in recent years, bound by their shared distrust of the West. They reaffirmed their partnership just days before Russia invaded Ukraine, but China has been careful not to provide any direct material support that could trigger Western sanctions against it.

As they began their conversation, Mr Biden said: “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.”

He mentioned climate change and food insecurity as problems the world expected their two countries to address.

U.S. President Joe Biden, left, is seated with Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, for a meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit meeting, Monday, Nov. 14, 2022, in Bali, Indonesia. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Mr Xi and Mr Biden greeted each other at a luxury resort hotel in Indonesia, where they are attending the G20 summit (Photo: Alex Brandon/AP)

Mr Xi added that he hoped the pair would “elevate the relationship” and that he was prepared to have a “candid and in-depth exchange of views” with Mr Biden.

Mr Xi said China and the US should take history as a mirror and let it guide the future, Chinese state news agency Xinhua reported.

Relations have been roiled in recent years by growing tensions over issues ranging from Hong Kong and Taiwan to the South China Sea, trade practices and US restrictions on Chinese technology.

US officials said there have been quiet efforts by both Beijing and Washington over the past two months to repair ties.

“These meetings do not take place in isolation, they are part of a very sustained process,” said one official.

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“We have engaged in serious, sustained dozens and dozens of hours of quiet diplomacy behind the scenes.

“I think we are satisfied with the seriousness that both sides have brought to that process.”

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the meeting between Mr Biden and Mr Xi was “intended to stabilise the relationship between the United States and China, and to create a more certain atmosphere for US businesses”.

Both men entered the highly-stake talks with bolstered political standing at home. Democrats triumphantly held onto control of the US Senate, with a chance to boost their ranks by one in a runoff election in Georgia next month, while Mr Xi was awarded an unprecedented third term in October by the Communist Party’s national congress.

“We have very little misunderstanding,” Mr Biden said in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on Sunday, where he participated in a gathering of southeast Asian nations before leaving for Indonesia.

“We just got to figure out where the red lines are and… what are the most important things to each of us going into the next two years.”

Mr Biden added: “His circumstance has changed, to state the obvious, at home.”

The US president said of his own situation: “I know I’m coming in stronger.”

Additional reporting by agencies

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