At World Summit, a Notable Handshake

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President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping opened their first in-person meeting Monday since the US president took office nearly two years ago, aiming to “manage” differences between the superpowers as they compete for global influence amid increasing economic and security tensions. Xi and Biden greeted each other with a handshake at a luxury resort hotel in Indonesia, where they are attending the Group of 20 summit of large economies, before they sat down for what was expected to be a conversation lasting several hours, per the AP.

“As the leaders of our two nations, we share responsibility, in my view, to show that China and the United States can manage our differences, prevent competition from becoming anything ever near conflict, and to find ways to work together on urgent global issues that require our mutual cooperation,” Biden said to open the meeting. Xi said he hoped they would “chart the right course for the China-US relationship” and that he was prepared for a “candid and in-depth exchange of views” with Biden.

White House aides have repeatedly sought to play down any notion of conflict between the two nations and have emphasized that they believe the countries can work in tandem on shared challenges such as climate change and health security. But relations have grown more strained under successive American administrations, as economic, trade, human rights, and security differences have come to the fore. “We have very little misunderstanding,” Biden told reporters Sunday. “We just got to figure out where the red lines are and … what are the most important things to each of us going into the next two years.”

Taiwan has emerged as one of the most contentious issues between Washington and Beijing. Multiple times in his presidency, Biden has said the US would defend the island—which China has eyed for eventual unification—in case of a Beijing-led invasion. But administration officials have stressed each time that the US’ “One China” policy has not changed. That policy recognizes the government in Beijing while allowing for informal relations and defense ties with Taipei, and its posture of “strategic ambiguity” over whether it would respond militarily if the island were attacked.

(Read more US-China relations stories.)

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