Joe Biden (left) listens to the US national anthem with Xi Jinping during a welcome ceremony in Beijing. File/AFP
President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping opened their first in-person meeting Monday since the US president took office nearly two years ago, amid increasing economic and security tensions between the two superpowers as they compete for global influence.
Biden smiled as Xi greeted the US leader with a "good to see you", kicking off what is expected to be two hours of intensive talks.
Xi and Biden greeted each other with a handshake at a luxury resort hotel in Indonesia, where they are attending the Group of 20 summit of large economies. US officials say Biden aims to "build a floor” in the relationship between the leaders — and nations — to identify areas of potential cooperation and to avoid miscalculations between the nuclear powers on areas of disagreement.
Both men entered the highly anticipated meeting with bolstered political standing at home. Democrats triumphantly held onto control of the US Senate, with a chance to boost their ranks by one in a runoff election in Georgia next month, while Xi was awarded a third five-year term in October by the Communist Party's national congress, a break with tradition.
"We have very little misunderstanding,” Biden told reporters in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on Sunday, where he participated in a gathering of southeast Asian nations before leaving for Indonesia. "We just got to figure out where the red lines are and ... what are the most important things to each of us going into the next two years.”
Biden added: "His circumstance has changed, to state the obvious, at home.” The president said of his own situation: "I know I’m coming in stronger.”
White House aides have repeatedly sought to play down any notion of conflict between the two nations and have emphasized that they believe the two countries can work in tandem on shared challenges such as climate change and health security.
But relations between the US and China have grown more strained under successive American administrations, as economic, trade, human rights and security differences have come to the fore.
Joe Biden (left) talks with Joko Widodo during their bilateral meeting in Nusa Dua, Bali on Monday. AP
As president, Biden has repeatedly taken China to task for human rights abuses against the Uyghur people and other ethnic minorities, crackdowns on democracy activists in Hong Kong, coercive trade practices, military provocations against self-ruled Taiwan and differences over Russia’s prosecution of its war against Ukraine. Chinese officials have largely refrained from public criticism of Russia’s war, although Beijing has avoided direct support such as supplying arms.
The overarching goal will be setting "guardrails" and "clear rules of the road", a senior White House official told reporters hours before the meeting.
"We do all of that to ensure that competition does not veer into conflict."
Biden is expected to push China to rein in ally North Korea after a record-breaking spate of missile tests raised fears Pyongyang will soon carry out its seventh nuclear test.
Xi, whose last in-person US summit was with Donald Trump in 2019, may be in no mood to help. He arrives buoyed by securing a landmark third term in office, cementing him as the most powerful Chinese leader for generations.
Biden too arrives bolstered by his Democratic Party's better-than-expected showing in midterm elections in which they retained control of the US Senate, although he remains vulnerable in domestic politics.
Biden said he goes into Monday's encounter on the sidelines of a G20 summit in Indonesia stronger after his Democratic Party's unexpected success in midterm elections they were forecast to lose heavily.
US President Joe Biden on Tuesday called Xi Jinping ‘a dictator’, a day after top US diplomat Antony Blinken visited Beijing to stabilise bilateral relations that China says are at their lowest point since formal ties were established.
The possibility of a visit to Taiwan by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the top congressional Democrat and second in line of succession to the presidency, has added fresh strain to the complicated relationship.
The two leaders spoke just hours after Biden announced plans for a Pentagon task force to review US national security strategy in China and after the new US president announced he was levying sanctions against Myanmar’s military regime following this month’s coup in the southeast Asian country.
"We are contributing to the loss and damage fund with 100 million euros to help achieve the goals of this COP28," she told an event at the COP28 climate conference in Dubai.
"We welcome all of you to your country, the Emirates, and we welcome all the delegations that came for the climate conference, and we thank God and thank Him for what He has bestowed upon us. Our love for the blessing of the earth is a reality. For us in the UAE, the issue of protecting the environment is not just a slogan; In fact, it is an integral part of our history, heritage and life.”
Designed to bridge the climate financing gap and facilitate affordable access, the fund aims to stimulate the raising and investment of $250 billion by 2030. This was revealed during Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed’s opening of the World Climate Action Summit, held during the UN Climate Change Conference (COP28) at Expo City Dubai.