Antagonism and distrust between China and the United States gave little reason to expect that the first virtual summit between President Xi Jinping and his American counterpart, Joe Biden , would make much difference. But that remains to be seen. It may have paved the way for the two powers to turn a new page. The meeting lasted for three hours and 38 minutes, including a half-hour extension to accommodate all the issues between them – usually a good sign. China described the meeting as candid, constructive, practical and fruitful. The two leaders eased tensions over contentious issues. Their clearing of the air over Taiwan comes as a relief to all sides. Biden reaffirmed Washington’s commitment to the one-China policy, notwithstanding the development of closer ties with the self-ruled island. Xi said China would show patience and sincerity in waiting for peaceful reunification, unless provoked. Both sides in their own ways backed the status quo. Biden came to the summit with his political stock bolstered by passage of his trillion-dollar infrastructure package. Xi briefed Biden about the just concluded sixth plenum, saying it was his honour to serve 1.4 billion Chinese people, which can be seen as a subtle message that the ruling party has consolidated his position and the US can expect to have to do business with China under his leadership for some time. In that regard Xi raised three guiding principles: mutual respect; peaceful coexistence; and win-win cooperation. The presence at the summit of US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Xi’s top economic adviser Liu He says a lot about the focus of the bilateral relationship in the immediate future – the economy and trade. The phase one trade war deal expires in January, with little prospect of China meeting its US import quota and Washington needing to explain why to a domestic audience. They can blame it on Covid-19, but China needs to look like it is trying, with some big purchases such as more Boeing aircraft. China and the US ‘must find the right way to get along’, Xi tells Biden Yellen has indicated the US may consider removing tariffs on Chinese goods in certain areas, a logical response to growing inflationary expectations since tariffs are an indirect consumer tax. There is talk that in the next trade deal the US will focus on Chinese state subsidies, which would explain why Xi, in his opening speech at the recent Shanghai import expo, said China was willing to discuss its subsidy regime. Xi said China was willing to engage with the US on matters ranging from economic development to energy, militaries, education, technology, cyberspace and environmental protection. “In the next 50 years, the most important thing in international relations is that China and the United States must find the right way to get along,” Xi was quoted as saying. History would be the judge if their leaders failed the test.