Biden-Xi virtual summit set for Monday evening as Chinese tensions rise

Chinese President Xi Jinping shakes hands with US Vice President Joe Biden (L) inside the People’s Hall in Beijing on December 4, 2013.

Lintao Zhang | Reuters

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden will hold a highly anticipated virtual summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday evening, CNBC has confirmed.

Biden and Xi have made two phone calls since Biden took office in January, most recently on September 9th. But Monday’s summit will be the first time in Biden’s mandate that they have communicated face-to-face in a formal summit.

Traditionally, world leaders to leadership summits are carefully choreographed to produce some tangible result. But senior White House officials said the Biden-Xi summit will not be like that.

“This is not about looking for specific deliveries or results,” said one administrative official who asked for anonymity to discuss an agenda that was yet to be finalized on Friday.

“This is about setting the conditions of effective competition where we are in a position to defend our values ​​and interests and those of our allies and partners,” the official said. “We believe that when such terms — or watchtowers — are established, we can continue vigorous competition.”

The summit comes as the United States and China disagree on major geopolitical issues such as trade, human rights, military buildup, Taiwan and cybersecurity.

China has expanded military exercises near Taiwan in recent months, a show of strength that has not gone unnoticed by the Biden administration.

Beijing has also attracted international condemnation for its campaign to “re-educate” members of its Uyghur Muslim minority ethnic group. This “re-education” push includes forced labor, the mass incarceration of more than a million people in “re-education” camps and the alleged sterilization of Uyghur women.

In March, the United States and its allies imposed sanctions on several officials in Xinjiang Province, the traditional homeland of the Uyghur people. Secretary of State Tony Blinken has labeled the treatment of Uyghurs in China as “genocide”.

On trade, Beijing has pushed the Biden administration to stop Trump-era tariffs on more than $ 350 billion worth of Chinese goods. But Washington has stopped, choosing instead to leave tariffs in place and try to open a new round of trade negotiations.

However, despite these deep divisions between the two countries, Biden makes it a priority to maintain open communications with Beijing.

“Intense competition requires intense diplomacy,” the White House official said. “As President Biden explained, he welcomes the stiff competition, but does not want conflict.”

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Recently, Washington and Beijing have sought to highlight their cooperation on issues where the interests of the two countries converge.

This collaboration was watched last Wednesday at the COP24 climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland.

There, Chinese and U.S. envoys announced a surprising joint agreement to set new targets to reduce fossil fuel consumption.

Together, the United States and China account for more than 35% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, although China produces more than twice as much as America does.

Climate change is one of the few things where Washington and Beijing can see eye to eye. More often, the two countries are on opposite sides.

Under Xi, China’s one-party communist government sought to overthrow the United States as the world’s leading economic and political power.

To do so, it has exerted its economic influence around the world, financing infrastructure projects in the developing world and making purely transactional alliances with countries.

Back home, the Communist Party forcibly suppressed dissidents in Hong Kong, and gradually restricted freedoms enjoyed for a century by citizens of the former British protectorate.

For the White House, these gradual developments are part of an even longer-term Chinese plan that somehow poses more of a threat to the United States than any of the strategic issues alone.

Both words and deeds, China is trying to provide the world with an attractive alternative to a liberal, rule-based democracy. Beijing’s message is that democracy has failed to fulfill for its people, and that human rights and individual freedoms are being overestimated.

Biden responded to this looming threat by working to unite U.S. allies in the Pacific, at the G7 conference and in NATO.

“We are in competition – not with China in itself – but in competition with autocrats, autocratic governments around the world, whether or not democracies can compete with them in the rapidly changing 21st century,” Biden said at a NATO summit. earlier this year.

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