President Biden is preparing for a rare one-on-one encounter with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday, a conversation that the White House describes as another chapter in the “intense diplomacy” between two superpowers that are engaged in “intense competition.”
The agenda for the meeting, which will be held virtually by video conference, is vast. A senior administration official said it could last several hours and will touch on American concerns about China’s economic practices, its aggression toward Taiwan and its record of human rights abuses.
“The president will be very direct and candid,” the official said, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss Biden’s plans. The official added that Biden expects Xi to “play by the rules of the road, which is what other responsible nations do.”
Biden and Xi plan to speak through translators, and they’ll likely be joined by an array of advisors.
There’s no plan for the meeting to end with a joint statement or an announcement of new agreements. Instead, the official said, it’s intended to foster a dialogue that could prevent rising tensions from spilling into open conflict.
The goal is to create “common-sense guardrails to avoid miscalculation or misunderstanding,” the official said.
The virtual meeting on Monday will be the first face-to-face conversation between the two leaders since Biden took office this year. They’ve spoken twice over the phone. During the most recent call, in September, they “discussed the responsibility of both nations to ensure competition does not veer into conflict,” according to the White House.
Despite the breakdown in the relationship, the U.S. and China made a surprise joint announcement over the weekend at the climate change summit in Scotland, agreeing to increase their efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, although there was little in the way of concrete new commitments.
“There are areas where our interests align and we should be able to work together,” the official said.
However, the official rejected Beijing’s attempts to tie cooperation on climate change to other issues between the U.S. and China.
Addressing global warming is necessary to prevent an existential crisis for the planet, the official said — it’s “not a favor to us.”