WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden said Wednesday he plans at an anticipated meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping to discuss growing tensions between Washington and Beijing over the self-ruled island of Taiwan, trade policies and Beijing's relationship with Russia.
The White House has said it is working with Chinese officials to arrange a meeting between Biden and Xi on the sidelines of next week's Group of 20 Summit in Bali, Indonesia, but the two sides have not confirmed the meeting will take place.
Biden told reporters at a White House news conference that he had much to discuss with Xi as U.S.-Chinese relations have grown more fraught in recent months.
“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.”
Xi’s government has criticized the Biden administration’s posture toward Taiwan — which Beijing looks eventually to unify with the communist mainland — as undermining China’s territorial integrity. The Chinese president also has suggested that Washington wants to stifle Beijing’s growing influence as it tries to overtake the U.S. as the world’s No. 1 economy.
Tensions over Taiwan have grown since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan in August.
Biden said that he's “not willing to make any fundamental concessions” about the United States' Taiwan doctrine.
Under its “One China” policy, the United States recognizes the government in Beijing while allowing for informal relations and defense ties with Taipei. It takes a stance of “strategic ambiguity” toward the defense of Taiwan — leaving it open whether it would respond militarily were the island attacked.
Biden caused a stir in Asia in May when at a news conference in Tokyo, said “yes” when asked if he was willing to get involved militarily to defend Taiwan if China invaded. The White House and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin were quick to clarify that there was no change in U.S. policy.
Beijing sees official American contact with Taiwan as encouragement to make the island’s decades-old de facto independence permanent, a step U.S. leaders say they don’t support. Pelosi is the highest-ranking elected American official to visit since then-Speaker Newt Gingrich in 1997.
The anticipated Biden-Xi meeting would be the first between the leaders of the world’s biggest economies since Biden became president in January 2021.
The two traveled together in the U.S. and China in 2011 and 2012 when they were serving as their countries' vice presidents, and they have held five phone or video calls since Biden became president.
But the U.S.-China relationship has become far more complicated since those getting-to-know-you talks in Washington and on the Tibetan plateau a decade ago.
As president, Biden has repeatedly accused China of human rights abuses of the Uyghur people and other ethnic minorities. He has taken Beijing to task for its crackdowns on democracy activists in Hong Kong, coercive trade practices, military provocations against Taiwan and differences over Russia’s war against Ukraine.
Weeks before Vladimir Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine, the Russian president met with Xi in Beijing and the two issued a memorandum expressing hopes of a "no limits" relationship for their nations.
China has largely refrained from criticizing Russia’s war but also has held off on supplying Moscow with arms.
"I don’t think there’s a lot of respect that China has for Russia or Putin," Biden said. “And in fact, they’ve been sort of keeping the distance a little bit.”
On another issue, White House officials have expressed frustration that Beijing has not used its influence to press North Korea to pull back from conducting provocative missile tests and to abandon its nuclear weapons program.
Xi has stayed close to home throughout the global COVID-19 pandemic.
He made his first trip outside China since the start of the pandemic in September with a stop in Kazakhstan and then Uzbekistan to take part in the eight-nation Shanghai Cooperation Organization with Putin and other leaders of the Central Asian security group.
Xi last month was awarded a norm-breaking third, five-year term as the Chinese Communist Party leader during the party’s national congress.