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Biden to hold virtual meeting with China’s Xi on Monday

It is expected to be the leaders' most extensive meeting. (Source: AP)

(REUTERS): US President Joe Biden will hold a virtual meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping on Monday, the White House announced, as the leaders of the world’s two largest economies confront tensions over trade, cyberthreats, the climate, and human rights.

It is expected to be the leaders’ most extensive meeting under the Biden administration and will follow on from a telephone call between the two on September 9.

“The two leaders will discuss ways to responsibly manage the competition … as well as ways to work together where our interests align,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement. “President Biden will make clear US intentions and priorities and be clear and candid about our concerns,” she added.

Beijing is also keen to avoid confrontation as Xi faces a crucial year ahead with China’s hosting of the Winter Olympic Games and a key Communist Party Congress where he looks to secure an unprecedented third term.

China’s foreign ministry announced that the leaders would exchange views on bilateral relations and issues of common interests in the summit, which will take place on Tuesday morning in Asia.

Washington and Beijing have been sparring on issues from the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic to China’s expanding nuclear arsenal. US officials believe direct engagement with Xi is the best way to prevent ties spiralling toward conflict.

A senior US official said Biden would make clear he welcomes stiff competition with China, but doesn’t want conflict, and played down the likelihood of a long list of outcomes often tied to top-level meetings.

“This is not about seeking specific deliverables or outcomes,” the official said, adding in reference to the People’s Republic of China (PRC): “As we compete with the PRC, President Biden expects President Xi and the PRC to play by the rules of road — and he will make that point throughout the meeting.”

The meeting will come after Biden signs a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure deal in a big ceremony on Monday to celebrate domestic renewal plans he believes will position the United States to out-compete China.

US officials have played down the possibility of progress on trade, where China is lagging in a commitment to buy $200 billion more in US goods and services.

China has nevertheless continued to push for relief from hundreds of billions of dollars of tariffs imposed under former President Donald Trump, arguing this could help both sides by easing inflation and boosting employment.