Joe Biden and Xi Jinping to hold virtual summit ‘next week’, with date to come
- The talks between the two leaders will take place as the US and China spar over Taiwan, and alarm grows in Washington over Beijing’s expanding nuclear arsenal
- The session won’t address the issue of whether the US consulate in Chengdu and the Chinese consulate in Houston will reopen
The long-distance summit comes as ties between the world’s two largest economies have quietly improved in recent months, even as the nations spar over Taiwan and alarm grows in Washington over Beijing’s expanding nuclear arsenal.
The exact date of the summit is still being negotiated, according to two people familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified.
The session will not address the issue of whether the US consulate in Chengdu and the Chinese consulate in Houston will reopen, one of the people added. Both buildings were closed in July last year amid tit-for-tat feuding between Washington and Beijing.
US consulate in Chengdu shut down in response to closure of China’s diplomatic mission in Houston
White House and State Department spokespeople did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre reiterated on Monday that there’s “an agreement in principle” for a virtual meeting “before the end of the year”.
“This is part of our ongoing efforts to responsibly manage the competition between our countries,” she told reporters, and is “not about seeking specific deliverables”.
The White House has previously said it wants to elevate talks to the leader level, in hopes that the two presidents can agree on guardrails for the relationship to ensure competition does not veer into conflict.
The meeting would also follow the sixth plenum – a key meeting of Communist Party officials taking place in Beijing this week. That gathering is expected to help smooth the way for Xi to win a third term as party leader next year.
Biden met Xi repeatedly over the years, including as vice-president, and used to tout what he said was his friendship with the Chinese leader. He gave a harsher assessment on the campaign trail last year, calling Xi a “thug” who “doesn’t have a democratic – with-a-small-‘d’ – bone in his body.”
Xi has not left China in 21 months, as China continues to push ahead with a Covid-zero policy and as Xi prepares for an important Communist Party meeting scheduled for next year. Xi did not attend the recent meeting of Group of 20 leaders in Rome or climate talks in Glasgow.