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Biden says he'll meet with China's Xi face-to-face next week

Since he took office, President Biden has only been able to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping virtually — like in this Nov. 2021 file photo — or by phone.
Alex Wong
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Getty Images
Since he took office, President Biden has only been able to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping virtually — like in this Nov. 2021 file photo — or by phone.

President Biden confirmed on Wednesday that he plans to meet face-to-face with Chinese President Xi Jinping next week in Bali, Indonesia, where the two leaders are attending the G-20 summit.

Biden has focused his foreign policy on countering the economic and national security threats posed by China. He told reporters at a press conference that he will not make any concessions with Beijing, but wants to find out Xi's "red lines" are in the relationship.

The leaders have not met in person since Biden became president. When he was vice president, Biden spent a lot of time meeting with Xi – a fact he regularly trumpets – but Xi only recently resumed traveling outside his country after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Biden told reporters that his goal is get a deeper understanding of Xi's priorities and concerns.

"I've told them I'm looking for competition, not conflict," Biden said. "And so what I want to do with him when we talk is lay out what each of our red lines are. Understand what he believes to be in the critical national interest of China. What I know to be the critical interest of the United States and to determine whether or not they conflict with one another."

The administration has been working for months to try to get the two leaders together in an effort to reduce tensions before they spiral out of control.

The two leaders discussed a possible face-to-face meeting during a two-hour call in late July.

Since then, tensions escalated over a visit by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan. The White House called China's military exercises that followed an "unprecedented pressure campaign" for the self-governed island that China claims as its own.

China slapped sanctions against Pelosi and launched live-fire military drills around the island. But Beijing also blamed Biden for not intervening.

Xi cut off talks with the administration on a number of important issues, including counternarcotics and climate.

Biden has also raised Beijing's ire by suggesting repeatedly that the U.S. will defend Taiwan if attacked by China.

Some observers say the remarks contradict a long-standing preference from U.S. administrations for ambiguity on the issue of defending Taiwan, as a way to deter both China and Taiwan from taking steps that could alter the status quo.

The White House has repeatedly said the remarks do not represent a change in U.S. policy, but China has not been satisfied.

Asked again on Wednesday, whether he would tell Xi that the United States is committed to defending Taiwan, Biden said "I'm going to have that conversation with him" — though he also said that his policy on Taiwan had not changed.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

When he was vice president, Biden spent a lot of time meeting and talking with Chinese President Xi Jinping. This file photo is from a 2013 visit to the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.
Lintao Zhang / Getty Images
/
Getty Images
When he was vice president, Biden spent a lot of time meeting and talking with Chinese President Xi Jinping. This file photo is from a 2013 visit to the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.

Franco Ordoñez is a White House Correspondent for NPR's Washington Desk. Before he came to NPR in 2019, Ordoñez covered the White House for McClatchy. He has also written about diplomatic affairs, foreign policy and immigration, and has been a correspondent in Cuba, Colombia, Mexico and Haiti.
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