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Biden and Xi's digital assembly ends with either side calling for extra cooperation amid tensions

United States President Joe Biden meets China's President Xi Jinping during a virtual summit from the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, DC, November 15, 2021.

Almond Ngan | AFP | Getty Images

BEIJING – US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping practically met on Tuesday in the closest communication between the leaders of the two countries since Biden took office in January.

Both sides identified points of tension and made public statements after the meeting, in which the possibilities for conflict avoidance were highlighted.

Biden said it was "necessary for common sense guard rails to ensure that competition does not get into conflict and to keep lines of communication open," according to the White House reading after the meeting.

Xi said during the meeting that in order for China and the US to get along in "a new era," three principles of mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation should be followed, according to China's official English reading. Beijing usually uses a language like "mutual respect" when it comes to more favorable terms from the US.

Xi also compared the two countries to two large ships that, according to a Chinese press release, must move forward together without colliding.

"The meeting itself was really about the two leaders discussing ways to responsibly manage competition between the United States and China," a senior Biden government official told reporters on a phone call.

In Taiwan, "nothing new in the form of guard rails or other agreements has been established," the official said, adding that the Beijing Winter Olympics and visa issues were not discussed during the virtual meeting. "We did not expect a breakthrough. There was none to report," said the official.

"The meeting (was) far-reaching, in-depth, open, constructive, substantive and productive," said Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying in English on Twitter. "It helps to increase mutual understanding."

As expected, economic issues were part of the conversation between the two heads of state and government without any concrete conclusions being drawn.

Biden "underscored the importance of China meeting its Phase One (trade agreement) commitments," the official said, adding that trade is not a dominant part of the conversation.

Tensions between the US and China

Tensions between the two nations escalated under former US President Donald Trump, beginning with trade and tariffs on goods worth billions of dollars.

Those responsible ended the meeting shortly before 12.30 p.m. Beijing time (11:30 p.m. ET Monday), nearly four hours after it started, according to Chinese state media.

The virtual meeting started on a positive note and warm remarks. Xi said he was "very happy" to see his "old friend," while Biden said the two "have never been so formal with each other," according to a White House lecture in the opening remarks at the meeting.

Our responsibility as leaders of China and the United States is to ensure that competition between our countries does not, intentionally or unintentionally, become conflict.

Biden said the responsibility of leaders is "to be clear and honest where we disagree and to work together where our interests intersect, especially on major global issues such as climate change."

"Our responsibility as leaders of China and the United States is to ensure that competition between our countries does not come into conflict, be it intentional or unintentional," said the US president. "Simply simple, straightforward competition."

Both guides said it was better to meet in person and asked for more communication.

The Chinese leader also expressed "willingness to work with President Biden to reach consensus and take active steps to move China-US relations in a positive direction," according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry. Xi stressed the need for a "solid and stable" relationship between the two countries, the press release said.

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China's Vice Premier Liu He, Foreign Minister Wang Yi, and Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng attended the virtual meeting along with Ding Xuexiang, Director of the CCP Central Committee's General Office, and Yang Jiechi, Director of the Committee's Foreign Ministry.

On the US side, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan were present. Three representatives from the National Security Council also attended: Kurt Campbell, Assistant to the President and Coordinator for the Indo-Pacific; Laura Rosenberger, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for China; and Jon Czin, director for China.

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