Biden meets Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi amid tension

US President may meet Chinese leader Xi Jinping next month

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, right, attends a bilateral meeting in Washington. AP
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US President Joe Biden met China’s top diplomat on Friday in a conversation that was viewed as the precursor to a potential sit-down with Chinese leader Xi Jinping next month.

The White House meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi was the latest in a series of high-level contacts between the two countries as they explore the possibility of stabilising an increasingly tense relationship at a time of conflict in Ukraine and Israel.

The White House said Mr Biden “emphasised that both the United States and China need to manage competition in the relationship responsibly and maintain open lines of communication” and he “underscored that the United States and China must work together to address global challenges”.

Mr Biden had been widely expected to talk to Mr Wang, a reciprocal action after Mr Xi met Secretary of State Antony Blinken in June.

Beijing has yet to confirm if Mr Xi will travel to San Francisco for the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit next month, but Mr Biden has said a meeting between the two leaders on the sidelines was possible.

The White House said the US and China had agreed to "work toward" a meeting between the two leaders, but would not elaborate if it would take place in San Francisco.

Mr Wang is in the midst of a three-day visit to Washington, where he has been meeting top US officials. He sat down with Mr Blinken for the second time during his trip on Friday. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan also met Mr Wang.

On Thursday, after their initial meeting, the Chinese delegation said “the two sides had an in-depth exchange of views on China-US relations and issues of common concern in a constructive atmosphere”.

In its readout, the US State Department said the two men addressed “areas of difference” and “areas of co-operation”, while Mr Blinken “reiterated that the United States will continue to stand up for our interests and values and those of our allies and partners”.

A Biden administration official on Friday said the US had expressed deep concern over the situation in the Middle East and pressed China to take a more constructive approach.

US officials believe the Chinese have considerable leverage with Iran, which is a major backer of Hamas.

“China should use whatever ability it has as an influential power to urge calm” in the Middle East, said State Department spokesman Matthew Miller earlier this week.

“We know China has relationships with a number of countries in the region, and we would urge them to use those relationships, the lines of communication they have, to urge calm and stability.”

Mr Wang has come to Washington at a time when tension between the two countries remains high, including over US export controls on advanced technology and China's more assertive actions in the East and South China seas.

On Thursday, the US military released a video of a Chinese fighter jet flying within 3 metres of an American B-52 bomber over the South China Sea, nearly causing an accident.

The Biden administration official said they had expressed hope for better military-to-military relations, and that Mr Blinken had said the US wanted to address the issue of detained Americans in China.

Chinese warplanes perform 'highly concerning' intercepts of US aircraft

Chinese warplanes perform 'highly concerning' intercepts of US aircraft

The Chinese President last came to the US in 2017, when former president Donald Trump hosted him at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

Mr Biden, who took office in 2021, has yet to host Mr Xi on US soil.

The two men last met in Bali, Indonesia, in November 2022, on the sidelines of the G20 meeting of leading rich and developing nations.

The US-China relationship began to sour in 2018 when the Trump administration slapped hefty tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese goods. It deteriorated further over a range of issues, including rights abuses, the South China Sea, Taiwan, technology and the Covid-19 pandemic.

Updated: October 27, 2023, 11:44 PM