Biden, Xi to hold virtual summit by end of this year

President Joe Biden
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President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping are expected to hold a virtual summit by the end of this year, which would mark the first time the leaders will hold a formal meeting since Biden was elected.

The development follows national security adviser Jake Sullivan’s meeting with China’s top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, for six hours in Zurich on Wednesday.

“Following the meeting in Zurich, we have an agreement in principle to have a virtual bilateral meeting between President Biden and President Xi before the end of the year,” a senior administration official said.

“We don’t have details to share at this time, and we’ll be working through the details in the days ahead, but today was a productive step toward a meeting. This is part of our ongoing effort to responsibly manage the competition between our countries,” the official said.

The White House said the meeting was scheduled, in part, to follow up on a lengthy September phone call between Biden and Xi, their second such call since Biden took office in January.

Sullivan on Wednesday raised concerns about China’s human rights record and its aggressive military activity near Taiwan, according to a White House readout of his meeting with Yang, and the two also discussed areas of mutual concern.

“Mr. Sullivan made clear that while we will continue to invest in our own national strength and work closely with our allies and partners, we will also continue to engage with the PRC at a senior level to ensure responsible competition,” the readout said.

According to The New York Times, the U.S. was aiming to have an in-person meeting between the two leaders — as Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin did earlier this year — but the Chinese president has not left the country during the pandemic and will not be attending the Group of 20 (G-20) summit later this month.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki declined to say Wednesday whether the intention was for the meeting to occur in timing with the G-20 summit.

“Leader-level engagement is an important part of our effort to responsibly manage the competition with China, especially given the coalescing of power in Chinese leadership,” Psaki told reporters during a press briefing. “We’re still working through what that would look like, when, and of course the final details, so we don’t quite have them yet.”

The announcement comes at a particularly sensitive time between the U.S. and China. Last week, China demonstrated its air power by flying dozens of military aircraft near Taiwan, seemingly trying to intimidate a country that it has long viewed as part of its territory. Taiwan, for its part, is preparing for possible war against China.

The U.S. has warned China of its “provocative” behavior and demanded it cease.

Last month, the U.S., Australia and the United Kingdom announced a partnership that would help Australia secure nuclear submarines, meant at combating the growing dominance of China in the Indo-Pacific. 

Earlier this week, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai announced plans to engage with her Chinese counterpart to both press China to comply with the Trump-era “phase one” trade pact and raise broader concerns about China’s unfair trade practices.

Both trade and security in the Asia Pacific are certain to be topics of any meeting between Biden and Xi. Biden is also hoping to find ways to work with China to address global challenges like the coronavirus pandemic and climate change.

Morgan Chalfant contributed to this report, which was updated on Oct. 7 at 7:29 a.m.

Tags China Jake Sullivan Jake Sullivan Jen Psaki Joe Biden Joe Biden Katherine Tai Russia Vladimir Putin Xi Jinping
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