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Joe Biden and Xi Jinping virtual summit set for Monday, White House announces

November 12, 2021 GMT

US President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping plan to hold a much-anticipated virtual summit on Monday evening Washington time, the White House announced on Friday.

“Following their September 9 phone call, the two leaders will discuss ways to responsibly manage the competition between the United States and the (People’s Republic of China), as well as ways to work together where our interests align,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. “Throughout, President Biden will make clear US intentions and priorities and be clear and candid about our concerns with the PRC.”

Leader-to-leader engagement was a critical component of the “intense diplomacy” that Washington’s “intense competition” with Beijing required, Psaki said later on Friday in a briefing.

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But she quashed hopes of any concrete results from the upcoming summit, stressing instead that the engagement was about “setting the terms, in our view, of an effective competition where we’re in a position to defend our values”.

“I wouldn’t set the expectation ... that this is intended to have major deliverables or outcomes,” Psaki said.

Pressed on whether Biden would raise concerns of China’s crackdown on Uygurs and other ethnic minority groups in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, Psaki said the US leader would “not hold back, as he never has, on areas where we have concern”.

“We share the concern about the human rights abuses,” she said.

Several new points of bilateral tension have emerged since the two leaders last spoke, including the surprise announcement of a new military alliance between the US, Britain and Australia, known as Aukus, which is aimed at countering China’s growing military presence in the Asia-Pacific region, and expanding ties between Washington lawmakers and Taiwanese government officials.

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The Chinese government has flagged official US contacts with, and military support for, Taiwan as an area over which it will not compromise.

The two sides are also grappling over a trade war started by Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump in 2018, for which a partial truce appears in jeopardy as China’s purchases have fallen behind what was expected in a phase-one agreement reached nearly two years ago.

The US has restarted talks with China recently about fulfilling Beijing’s commitment to purchase more American goods.

While discussions about the purchase commitment are getting traction, US Trade Representative Katherine Tai reiterated on Friday that the US has warned China that it is ready to retaliate if China fails to taper its support for domestic industries.

“Restoring more market-oriented conditions will protect our workers and businesses from Chinese distortions and enable them to compete on a more level playing field,” said Tai at an event hosted by Chatham House, a London-based think tank on international affairs.

More specifically, she said that the agreement reached by the US, Britain and the European Union to solve the Boeing and Airbus disputes has allowed the US and its allies “to turn our attention to shared challenges posed by China, which continues to use non-market policies and practices to distort the aerospace market and create an uneven playing field”.

Despite the recent uptick in tensions, Xi said in a congratulatory letter to the National Committee on US-China Relation s this week that China “stands ready to work with the United States to enhance exchanges and cooperation across the board”, on the basis of mutual respect and peaceful coexistence.

Biden and Xi have a history of face-to-face dealings stretching back more than a decade to when the two served as their respective countries’ vice-presidents.

Biden has boasted that he has spent more time with Xi than any other world leader. But he has publicly called his Chinese counterpart a “thug” who does not have a “democratic bone in his body”.

Asked on Friday whether the two presidents’ personal relationship would impact Biden’s ability to press China to enact changes it has previously been unwilling to make, Psaki said that their history would instead allow Biden “to be quite candid”.

Additional reporting by Jodi Xu Klein and Owen Churchill

This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia. For more SCMP stories, please download our mobile app, follow us on Twitter, and like us on Facebook.

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