Biden and Xi vow to reduce tensions as key summit talks begin

Woodside, California - President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping shook hands and pledged to steer their countries away from conflict Wednesday as they met for the first time in a year at a high-stakes summit in California.

President Joe Biden greets Chinese President Xi Jinping before a meeting during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders' week in Woodside, California on November 15, 2023.
President Joe Biden greets Chinese President Xi Jinping before a meeting during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders' week in Woodside, California on November 15, 2023.  © Brendan Smialowski / AFP

The hotly anticipated meeting began with Biden greeting Xi as he stepped out of a black limousine at the scenic Filoli country estate near San Francisco before they shared a quick handshake on the front steps.

The two leaders then headed inside for painstakingly choreographed closed-door talks on issues including Taiwan, sanctions, and trade that have roiled relations between the world's largest economies.

Sitting opposite Xi at a long wooden table inside a frescoed ballroom decorated with US and Chinese flags, Biden opened his remarks by saying that tensions should "not veer into conflict."

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"We've known each other for a long time. We haven't always agreed, which is not a surprise to anyone, but our meetings have always been candid and straightforward and useful," he said as Xi listened through headphones.

"I think it's paramount that you and I understand each other clearly, leader to leader, but [with] no misconceptions or miscommunication. We have to ensure that competition does not veer into conflict."

Biden added that they would discuss global challenges including climate change, drugs, and artificial intelligence.

Chinese President Xi responds to Biden's opening statements in closed-door talks

Xi responded by saying "conflict and confrontation has unbearable consequences for both sides."

"For two large countries like China and United States, turning their back on each other is not an option," he said.

"Planet Earth is big enough for the two countries to succeed."

The last time Biden and Xi met in person was in Bali in November 2022, and relations nosedived after the United States shot down an alleged Chinese spy balloon in February this year.

American officials have played down the chance of major breakthroughs although hoping for an agreement on restoring a hotline between the Chinese and US militaries, along with cooperation on stopping supplies of the drug fentanyl.

The talks, which follow months of delicate diplomatic negotiations, come against the backdrop of a long struggle for global primacy between the United States and an increasingly assertive China.

Cover photo: Brendan Smialowski / AFP

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