Chinese leader Xi Jinping and U.S. President Joe Biden held a virtual meeting in the evening of Nov. 15, Eastern Standard Time, a highly anticipated event as tensions between Beijing and Washington remain high.
People’s Republic of China (PRC) foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on Nov. 16 that the meeting was “conducive” to getting U.S.-China relations back on track after the trade war, coronavirus pandemic, and other diplomatic setbacks that have worsened views of China and its ruling Communist Party.
The White House described the meeting in cooler terms, with high-officials saying that no substantial breakthrough on the key issues was made.
Xi began the meeting by greeting his counterpart, telling Biden through an interpreter that “It’s the first time for us to meet virtually. Although it’s not as good as a face-to-face meeting, I’m very happy to see my old friend.”
“Maybe I should start more formally, although you and I have never been that formal with one another,” Biden responded, as reported by Reuters.
The two leaders have stressed the need for cooperation between the two superpowers, but see eye-to-eye on few issues. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has doubled down on its vow to “unify” with Taiwan, assert itself in the South China Sea, and harass Indian positions along the Himalayan border. Beijing also continues to blame the U.S. for the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic that began in Wuhan, central China. Meanwhile, the White House has increased its wariness with regard to the Party’s military ambitions, while stressing that Biden aims to cooperate with China, not embark on a new Cold War.
“Humanity lives in a global village, and we face multiple challenges together. China and the U.S. need to increase communication and cooperation,” Xi told Biden.
Biden said he hoped the CCP could abide by the “rules of the road” in international relations. “[W]e believe – and you and I have talked about this – all countries have to play by the same rules of the road, and why the United States is always going to stand up for our interests and values and those of our allies and partners,” he said.
The U.S. president also called for the two sides to establish “common sense guardrails”…. “to ensure that our competition between our countries does not veer into conflict”.
Earlier in the year, Biden had denied that he was an “old friend” of Xi’s. During the Obama administration, when serving as vice president, Biden said that he had traveled 17,000 miles with Xi, who also had a stint as a People’s Republic of China (PRC) vice president when Biden was in that office.
The term “old friend” of the Chinese became associated with some notoriety in late November last year when PRC professor Di Dongsheng gave a speech boasting of the CCP’s strong relationship with U.S. politicians and businesspeople.
“At the top of America’s core inner circle of power and influence, we have our old friends,” Di said, and said there were a lot of “big deals” to be made in future.