President Biden and China’s Xi Jinping shake hands, say they’ll manage “differences” at Bali meeting

With tension high between the United States and China, President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping met in person on Monday for the first time since Mr. Biden took office. The leaders of the world’s two biggest economies started their meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, with a handshake and a stated aim to prevent their countries’ differences from escalating into conflict.

“As leaders of our two nations, we share a responsibility, in my view, to show that China and the United States can manage our differences, prevent competition from becoming anything ever near conflict, and to find ways to work together on urgent global issues that require our mutual cooperation,” Mr. Biden said at the opening of the meeting.

Xi said that while the two leaders had met via videoconference over the past few years, there was no replacement for in person discussions.

“As leaders of the two major countries, we need to chart the right course for the China-U.S. relationship. We need to find the right direction for the bilateral relationship going forward, and elevate the relationship,” Xi said.

Both leaders came into the meeting from positions of strength at home: Mr. Biden’s Democratic Party just performed better than expected in midterm elections, and Xi secured a third term as leader of China’s Communist Party, solidifying what is effectively absolute power over his vast nation.

During his time in office, Mr. Biden has described China as “the biggest challenge to international order,” and repeatedly raised issues with its military provocations against Taiwan, its human rights abuses, coercive trade practices, and its position on Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Mr. Biden has said the U.S. would defend the self-governing island of Taiwan if Beijing were to invade. In recent months, Beijing has flown military planes near the island and fired missiles into the surrounding waters, and Xi has made it clear that he intends to “unify” the island with China, by force if necessary.

When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan during the summer, Beijing responded by cutting off communication with U.S. officials, CBS News congressional correspondent Nancy Cordes reported from Bali.

“I think both sides realize that if we keep going down the path that we’re headed on, that will be conflict,” China expert Scott Kennedy told Cordes. 

He said Mr. Biden was likely to push Xi in their closed-door meeting on Beijing’s reluctance to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. China initially stood by Putin, before Ukraine started taking back territory.

“They know where their economic bread is buttered: with the West, not with Russia,” Kennedy told Cordes.

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Xi Jinping
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