Joe Biden and Xi Jinping face-to-face on Monday to manage their rivalry “responsibly”

This is their first face-to-face since the election of Joe Biden. The American president and Chinese president Xi Jinping will see each other on Monday, without hope of resolving their substantive disputes but with the intention, on the American side, of managing their fierce rivalry in a “responsible” manner. The American president and his Chinese counterpart will meet in Bali, Indonesia, on the sidelines of the G20 summit, the White House announced on Thursday.

They have already had five telephone or videoconference interviews, but this is their first meeting in the flesh since January 2021. The two men, however, had already had the opportunity to gauge each other during meetings when Joe Biden was vice-president of Barak Obama. The two leaders see each other with the objective of “responsibly managing” the rivalry between China and the United States, White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement.

Mutual “red lines”

Washington also hopes that the two rivals will be able to “work together where [leurs] interests coincide,” she said. Americans are thinking here of climate and health. Joe Biden and Xi Jinping will also discuss a series of “international and regional” topics, she said, but without explicitly mentioning the fate of Taiwan, the strongest source of tension.

“What I want to do with him, when we talk to each other, is to determine the type of mutual red lines” not to be crossed, Joe Biden said on Wednesday. “The doctrine on Taiwan has not changed at all,” he assured, avoiding to rephrase previous comments that had irritated Beijing, according to which the American army would defend Taiwan if the island was attacked.

Of the “franchise” and the specter of Russia

A senior White House official clarified that Joe Biden intended to be “frank about a number of our concerns”. Namely: Chinese actions “disrupting peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait”, as well as “long-standing concerns about human rights violations”, not to mention China’s “harmful economic practices”.

Joe Biden also wants to talk about Russia, he who would like China to distance itself from Moscow. Not to mention North Korea. At a time when Pyongyang is increasing its missile launches, Washington would like Beijing to use its influence on North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Regarding Moscow, the senior official quoted above indicated that the Russian threat to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine could be addressed.

No “concrete” results to be expected

She insisted, in an interview with the press, that the meeting was not intended to have “concrete” results. The goal, she says, is to avoid “misunderstandings and misunderstandings,” by keeping the lines of communication open at all levels. Another source of friction: the recent tightening by the United States of its export controls, supposed to complicate the development by China of advanced semiconductors, and much criticized by Beijing.

“This is a targeted measure,” the senior US official justified on Thursday, “motivated by security and defense reasons, it is not something larger that is supposed to have a broad impact on the Chinese economy or the Chinese people”. Xi Jinping won a third term last month at the Chinese Communist Party Congress, cementing his status as the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao Tse-tung. Joe Biden comes out of the midterm elections somewhat refreshed, having avoided a wave of Republican opposition.

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