The White House is setting expectations low ahead of Monday’s virtual meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the evening meeting Washington time will focus on managing the terms of competition between the two rivals but is unlikely to end with resolution of differences.
“The two leaders will discuss ways to responsibly manage the competition” between the two countries “as well as ways to work together where our interests align,” Psaki said in a statement released Friday.
“Throughout, President Biden will make clear U.S. intentions and priorities and be clear and candid about our concerns with the PRC,” Psaki said, referring to Beijing by the acronym for the People’s Republic of China.
The U.S. sees China as its strategic competitor, with Beijing seeking to grow its military and economic influence around the world. In the lead-up to the meeting, however, rhetoric from both sides has softened.
In another positive step, U.S. and China, the world’s two biggest CO2 emitters, unexpectedly announced at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, that they would work together to slash emissions and meet regularly to address the climate crisis.
Patrick Cronin, Asia-Pacific security chair at the Hudson Institute, told VOA, “Xi Jinping and President Biden both want to find some stability from which to work to cooperate, where possible, to compete, and even to confront, where necessary. None of that’s going to stop going forward, but I think the tone is going to be better through the Olympics.”
Still, differences over human rights for the people of Hong Kong and Uyghur minorities will likely remain unresolved, as well as issues of trade, freedom of navigation, and Beijing’s military buildup in the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait.
Robert Daly, the director of the Wilson Center’s Kissinger Institute on China and the United States, told VOA, “We can expect President Biden to say that America still abides by the ‘One China’ policy, and Xi Jinping to say that America has been trampling over that policy.
“So neither leader, as I said, has changed his goals. Each seems to be searching for a formula, the words that will convince the other that all of their own actions are OK. And that is unlikely to happen.”
Ahead of their meeting, the two leaders Friday attended a virtual summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, or APEC, where Xi warned against letting tensions in the region turn into a cold war.
”We should be forward-looking, move ahead and reject practices of discrimination and exclusion of others. Attempts to draw ideological lines or form small circles on geopolitical grounds are bound to fail,” Xi said. He was referring to U.S. efforts to strengthen its partnerships in the region, including the Quad grouping with India, Japan and Australia.
Biden, Xi and leaders of APEC member economies concluded their virtual meeting agreeing on a series of commitments regarding the coronavirus pandemic, economic recovery and climate change mitigation.
Following the meeting chaired by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, leaders adopted a declaration under the theme of “Join, Work, Grow. Together,” which highlights policy actions to respond to COVID-19.
According to organizers, the declaration “lays out commitments in accelerating economic recovery and achieving sustainable and inclusive growth, including further actions in tackling climate change, empowering groups with untapped economic potential, supporting the region’s micro, small and medium enterprises and addressing the digital divide.”