President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping committed to addressing tensions between the two countries Monday morning in Bali ahead of the G-20 Summit. The three-hour meeting addressed the Russia-Ukraine conflict, tensions in Taiwan and the U.S.’ sanctions on China.
The leaders met face-to-face for the first time at a crucial point in world politics, after both men strengthened their political positions at home, according to analysts. China has been under pressure from the United States since Trump imposed economic sanctions on the country in 2018 which limited the country’s growing economy. China’s refusal to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine heightened international tensions last year.
“Trump identified China as the number one international threat,” Douglas Becker, USC associate teaching professor of political science and international relations, said. “Biden’s policy has generally been fairly supportive of Trump’s…But, if Biden was at all interested in trying to shift the U.S.’ relationship with Russia, he would realize that he needed China’s support.”
According to Becker, China’s economic power has been growing and will continue to rival the U.S.’ into the next decade. This, combined with the combatting political ideologies of the two nations, has created a historical conflict between China and the U.S.
Both leaders expressed an “openness to restoring channels of communication” and repairing the relationship that has been compared to a second Cold War. Biden said that the conversation between the two leaders was “very blunt.” According to Jinping’s spokesperson, the Chinese leader viewed the meeting as “in-depth, candid and constructive.”
“I’m not surprised that there was a meeting between the two leaders,” Thomas Chow, a senior communication major and editor of U.S. China Today, said. “Although there are a lot of disagreements, it doesn’t seem like Biden is as hardline on China as Trump was.”
According to a White House statement, the leaders agreed that a nuclear war “should never be fought and cannot be won,” underscoring their opposition to the use or threat of nuclear weapons in Ukraine.
“One of the motivations of this meeting is for Biden to quietly suggest to Xi that China could reevaluate the growing trade relations with Russia,” Becker said.
The leaders also discussed the recent increase in military tension in the Taiwan Strait. Despite media speculation about Beijing’s intentions to invade the island, Biden said there was no imminent attempt to do so on the part of China.
“Do I believe he’s willing to compromise on certain issues? Yes,” Biden told reporters afterward about the meeting. “We were very blunt with one another about places where we disagreed.”
According to Becker, this meeting could be the start of what could be a change the country needs to watch, as Biden’s number one foreign policy goal is to “defeat” Russia and Ukraine through these strategic interactions.
“He was clear, and I was clear that we will defend American interests and values, promote universal human rights and stand up for the international order and work in lockstep with our allies and partners,” Biden said. “We’re going to compete vigorously, but I’m not looking for conflict.”