Biden Expected to Bring Up Chinese Economic Practices, Taiwan and Russia's War in Ukraine in First Meeting With Xi as President

Huang Jingwen | Xinhua News Agency | Getty Images
  • President Joe Biden will meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday ahead of the G-20 summit in Bali, Indonesia.
  • Biden is set to bring up China's economic practices along with Taiwan.
  • Biden is also expected to address Xi's relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin as the Kremlin's war in Ukraine approaches its nine-month mark.

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden will discuss a range of geopolitical challenges next week in his first face-to-face meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping since he ascended to the White House two years ago.

"We expect this meeting to be an in-depth and substantive conversation between the leaders aimed at better understanding one another's priorities and intentions," a senior Biden administration official told reporters on a call.

The meeting between the two leaders will take place Monday ahead of the G-20 Summit in Bali, Indonesia.

"I expect the president will be honest about a number of our concerns," added the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The official said that Biden will raise concerns about harmful economic practices, Chinese activity that "threatens peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, as well as our long-standing concerns about human rights violations."

Biden told reporters at the White House on Wednesday that he wants to address the mounting tensions between Washington and Beijing.

"What I want to do with him when we talk is lay out what each of our red lines are and understand what he believes to be in the critical national interests of China, what I know to be the critical interests of the United States," Biden said. "And determine whether or not they conflict with one another."

The two leaders have spoken five times during Biden's presidency and previously discussed a face-to-face meeting during a two-hour call in late July.

Xi has remained close to home since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. He embarked on his first trip last month to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. The senior Biden administration official declined to elaborate on Covid-19 mitigation measures for the meeting, adding that health protocols were still being worked out by advance teams.

The call in July came as Biden drew Beijing's ire by suggesting that the U.S. will defend Taiwan if it was attacked by China. During the discussion, Xi told Biden not to "play with fire" over Taiwan. The White House has repeatedly said the remarks do not represent a change in U.S. foreign policy.

At the time, Beijing also accused U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of further straining the bilateral relationship with a trip to Taiwan, which China considers part of its territory. Pelosi was the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit the island in 25 years.

In retaliation for Pelosi's visit, Beijing imposed sanctions against her and launched live-fire military drills around the island. Taiwanese defense officials called the exercises "highly provocative."

Tensions between Beijing and Washington, the world's two largest economies, had already soared to new heights under the Trump administration.

Former President Donald Trump placed blame squarely on China for a wide range of grievances, including intellectual property theft, unfair trade practices and the coronavirus pandemic.

US President Donald Trump and China's President Xi Jinping attend a business leaders event inside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on November 9, 2017.
Nicolas Asfouri | AFP | Getty Images
US President Donald Trump and China's President Xi Jinping attend a business leaders event inside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on November 9, 2017.

Biden has previously said he would work more closely with allies in order to mount pushback against China's economic abuses. He has also described Beijing as America's "most serious competitor."

Biden is also expected to raise concerns about Xi's relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin as Moscow continues its monthslong assault on its ex-Soviet neighbor.

"I think the president will be honest and direct with President Xi about how we see the situation in Ukraine with Russia's war of aggression," the official said.

"This is a topic that the president and President Xi have spoken about several times before. They spoke about it extensively in March in their video call and then they spoke about it again in July, so it's part of an ongoing conversation between the two of them," the person added.

Weeks before the Kremlin's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Putin traveled to Beijing to meet with Xi and later issued a memorandum expressing a "no limits" relationship between their nations.

Two weeks after Russian troops poured over Ukraine's borders, officials from the United States and China met to discuss the Kremlin's war as well as other areas of mutual concern.

A senior administration official at the time described the talks, which were held in Rome, as "intense" and spanning at least seven hours.

The official, who spoke to reporters on the condition of anonymity, said Biden's national security advisor, Jake Sullivan, conveyed to China's top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, that the U.S. is concerned Beijing may attempt to help Russia blunt global sanctions.

"What I would say in general is that we do have deep concerns about China's alignment with Russia," the official said. "The national security advisor was direct about those concerns and the potential implications and consequences of certain actions."

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