Nov 16, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Xi greets "old friend" Biden as U.S.-China leaders' summit kicks off

Biden and Xi virtual summit

Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden told Chinese President Xi Jinping at the start of Monday night's virtual summit that he's looking forward to a "candid and forthright discussion" on how to establish "common-sense guardrails" between the world's two most powerful countries.

The big picture: Biden has repeatedly said that he likely knows Xi better than any world leader does, citing the dozens of hours that the two spent together while serving as vice presidents of their respective countries.

  • Amid growing tensions, Biden is hoping that personal diplomacy can help prevent what he calls "stiff competition" with China from spiraling into conflict.

Driving the news: Biden opened the virtual meeting on Monday night by telling Xi that the two men have “spent an awful lot of time talking to each other” over the years, and that they have "always communicated with one another very honestly and candidly."

  • "We have a responsibility to the world as well as to our people," Biden said, emphasizing the need to work together on climate change, for example.
  • He said that he planned to raise human rights, economics and the need to ensure a free and fair Indo-Pacific during the meeting.
  • Biden thanked Xi for his congratulatory call after the 2020 presidential election, before handing over to the Chinese leader to begin his remarks via a translation.

Xi told Biden that he was "very happy to see my old friend," and stressed the need for the U.S. and China to improve "communication and cooperation."

  • "Humanity lives in a global village, and we face multiple challenges together,” Xi said.
  • Chinese state media reported that Xi was likely to reject "interference" in China's domestic affairs, as has been the standard response to U.S. condemnations of Beijing's human rights abuses and aggression toward Taiwan.

Biden's delegation:

  • Secretary of State Antony Blinken
  • Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen
  • National security adviser Jake Sullivan
  • Indo-Pacific coordinator Kurt Kampbell
  • NSC senior director for China Laura Rosenberger
  • NSC director for China Jon Czin

Xi's delegation:

  • Director of the General Office of the CPC Central Committee Ding Xuexiang
  • State Council Vice Premier Liu He
  • Foreign Affairs Director Yang Jiechi
  • State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi
  • Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng

What to watch: Sullivan is expected to provide a public readout of the call at a Brookings Institution panel at 10am ET on Tuesday.

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