President Joe Biden said Monday that the US and China need to establish "common-sense guardrails" as the world's preeminent superpowers seek to manage a bilateral relationship increasingly defined by competition.
Speaking at the start of a long-awaited virtual meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Biden said collaboration between Washington and Beijing is particularly important on "vital global issues like climate change."
“We have a responsibility to the world as well as to our peoples,” Biden said, anticipating a "candid and forthright discussion" with Xi.
"It seems to me our responsibility as leaders of China and the United States is to ensure that the competition between our countries does not veer into conflict, whether intended or unintended; just simple, straightforward competition."
The virtual sit-down comes amid a host of strains on the US-Sino relationship, including what the US says is China's increasingly aggressive posture toward Taiwan, its territorial claims in the South China Sea, and rights abuses committed against its minority Muslim Uyghur population.
Amid the laundry list of disputes, the nations have sought to find common ground on a handful of key issues, notably climate change, which they agreed to increasingly collaborate on last week during a UN summit.
Addressing reporters virtually from China, Xi also emphasized the need to establish the rules of the road between the rival nations, emphasizing "China and the United States need to increase communication and cooperation."
"Right now, both China and the United States are at critical stages of development, and humanity lives in a global village, and we face multiple challenges together," said Xi. "We should each run our domestic affairs well, and at the same time, shoulder our share of international responsibilities, and work together to advance the noble cause of world peace and development."
Ahead of the meeting, the Chinese embassy in Washington said in a statement that the US and China "have come to a crossroads," describing the meeting as an opportunity for the leaders to have a "candid, in-depth and full exchange of views."
"China hopes that the U.S. side will work with China to explore how our two major countries get along in the new era based on mutual respect and peaceful coexistence, increase dialogue and cooperation, effectively manage differences and properly handle sensitive issues, in a bid to steer the bilateral ties back on the right track of sound and steady development," it said.
The White House released on Tuesday a statement following Biden’s virtual meeting with Xi.
The two leaders discussed the “complex nature of relations” between the two nations and the importance of managing competition responsibly, said the statement.
“As in previous discussions, the two leaders covered areas where our interests align, and areas where our interests, values, and perspectives diverge,” it said.
They also exchanged views on key regional challenges, including North Korea, Afghanistan, and Iran.
Biden stressed the importance of “substantive and concrete conversations” and welcomed the opportunity to speak candidly and straightforwardly to Xi.
He expressed his concerns about China’s practices in Xinjiang, Tibet, and Hong Kong, as well as human rights more broadly.
On Taiwan, Biden underlined commitment to the “One China” policy, adding that the US is strongly against unilateral efforts to change the status quo or undermine peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.
Mutual respect corner stone: Xi
In comments published by Chinese state-run media, Xi insisted that the two sides ensure mutual respect in bilateral relations.
The Chinese president stressed "mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation as three principles in developing China-US relations in the new era."
*He urged Washington to "respect each other's social systems and development paths, respect each other's core interests and major concerns, and respect each other's right to development."
"We need to treat each other as equals, keep differences under control, and seek common ground while reserving differences," Xi told Biden.
He said the interests of the two countries are "deeply intertwined" thus they "gain from cooperation and lose from confrontation."
"Climate change can well become a new highlight of China-US cooperation," the Chinese president suggested.
"The world is big enough for the two countries to develop individually and collectively," Xi said. "The right thing to do is to choose mutual benefit over the zero-sum game or the I-win-you-lose approach."