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US President Joe Biden during a virtual meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the White House in November 2021. Photo: TNS

Joe Biden says ‘sure’ to see China’s Xi Jinping if he joins G20 meeting in Bali

  • US president’s travel plans have not been confirmed, though Indonesia’s Widodo has said that both Xi and Russia’s Putin will attend the summit
  • Chinese and US leaders have not met in person since Biden’s election, and their contact has been limited to phone and video calls
US President Joe Biden said he is “sure” he will see Xi Jinping at the coming G20 summit in Indonesia if the US and Chinese leaders both attend, in what would be their first face-to-face meeting since Biden took office more than a year and a half ago.

“If he’s there, I’m sure I’ll see him,” Biden told reporters on Tuesday at a cabinet meeting at the White House.

The brief comments came as US-China tensions soar over Taiwan, human rights, trade disputes and other issues, and gave one of the clearest signs in recent weeks that Biden has not ruled out a direct, in-person meeting with his Chinese counterpart even as the two countries’ badly damaged relationship shows few if any signs of improvement.
Biden and Xi last spoke by phone on July 28 amid already high levels of friction between the two sides. Both leaders said at the time they were committed to meeting in person.

A senior US administration official said after their call that “a conversation about a face-to-face meeting [was] being worked out” between Washington and Beijing.

They “discussed the value of meeting face-to-face and agreed to have their teams follow up to find a mutually agreeable time to do so”, the official said.

Just five days later, antipathy between the world’s two largest economies spiked when US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi visited Taipei, and China began days of live-fire military drills around the self-ruled island that analysts likened to an effective blockade.

Beijing claims Taiwan as part of its own territory and has not ruled out the use of force to take it under its control.

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The US has not had formal diplomatic relations with Taipei since 1979, when Washington normalised its relationship with Beijing. But under the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, Washington also maintains an unofficial relationship with Taipei and sells Taiwan arms to defend itself.

Under official US policy, Washington does not recognise Beijing’s claim of sovereignty over Taiwan but “acknowledges” that the claim exists.

Biden and Xi met numerous times during the administration of Barack Obama, first when Biden and Xi were both vice presidents and then after Xi was elevated to head of state.

Biden often boasts of the many hours he spent with Xi during those years.

Beijing has ‘shut down’ key communication with outside world, says US

“I’ve spent more time with him than any other head of state,” he said in a speech marking the US Labour Day holiday on Monday.

Xi’s travel plans to the G20 summit are not yet confirmed, but Indonesian President Joko Widodo told Bloomberg last month that Xi would attend.
The Chinese leader has not travelled overseas since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, but is expected to travel to Kazakhstan next week in what would be his first trip abroad in more than two years.

The Group of 20 meeting is expected to take place on November 15 and 16 in Bali, Indonesia.

Additional reporting by Robert Delaney