President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping met in person Monday in Bali, the first time they have done so since Biden took office at the start of 2021.
Here are five key takeaways from the sit-down between the leaders of the superpowers.
– Talk is not cheap –
If there was one thing the two men definitely agreed on it was that they were glad to be meeting again.
“Since you assumed the presidency we have maintained communication via media conferences, phone calls and letters. But none of them can really substitute for face to face exchanges. Today we finally have this face to face meeting,” Xi said.
Biden echoed the authoritarian leader, whom he has known for years.
“There’s little substitute, though, for a face to face discussions. And as you know, I’m committed to keeping the lines of communications open between you and me personally, but also our governments across the board,” he said.
– No nuclear use in Ukraine –
Much has been made of what once seemed to be a budding alliance between Russia and China, who both often complain that the United States seeks to dominate the world, instead of accepting their own “multipolar” vision.
Once President Vladimir Putin launched his devastating invasion of Ukraine in February, speculation soared over what kind of political, economic and even military support China would lend. The answer, so far, has been not a great deal — certainly not what Putin might want.
In the Bali talks, Biden and Xi agreed that one area where the Kremlin will not get support is in Putin’s threatened use of nuclear weapons.
They “underscored their opposition to the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine,” the US said in a readout.
– Back to climate crisis cooperation –
Going into the talks, the White House said there was little in the way of concrete deliverables expected. One, though, was to restart cooperation between Washington and Beijing on non-controversial topics where their massive resources and global heft make them key players.
There was some success in this with plans to revive joint work on steering the world to meet UN global warming reduction targets. China had broken off these links out of anger over US support for the self-ruling, democratic government in Taiwan.
Biden talked of working “together on urgent global issues that require our mutual cooperation”.
Xi declared that “humanity is confronted with unprecedented challenges” and said “the world expects China and US to properly handle our relationships”.
– No Cold War –
The spirit of cooperation may have peaked in the declaration from both leaders that while disagreeing on much, they are not locked into an all-or-nothing conflict.
Xi told Biden that the two countries “share more, not less, common interests”, according to a Chinese account of the meeting.
Xi reportedly said Beijing does not seek to challenge the United States or “change the existing international order”.
Biden was adamant, saying he “absolutely” believes there “need not be a new Cold War”.
– Taiwan unresolved –
The immediate danger according to many is a hot war over Taiwan.
The United States does not recognise the island as independent but has pledged to help it defend itself, while Xi’s government is stepping up its rhetoric about being ready to use force to take control over what it considers part of its territory.
Biden said he does not see an “imminent” attempt being prepared against Taiwan.
However, the two leaders, for all their friendly pronouncements, had nothing new to say about the standoff, which remains a potentially ticking bomb.
“We’re committed to maintaining the peace and stability in the Taiwan Straits,” Biden said. It’s a phrase that Washington uses all the time to say that it wants to keep the status quo — not allowing China to take control over Taiwan.
Chinese state media said Xi had brought up Taiwan as being at “the very core of China’s main interests”.
It is “the first red line that must not be crossed in China-US relations,” Xinhua news agency reported. (AFP)