Joe Biden says US and China have 'responsibility to manage our differences' as he meets Xi Jinping

14 November 2022, 15:55

Joe Biden and Xi Jinping met face-to-face for the first time at the G20 summit
Joe Biden and Xi Jinping met face-to-face for the first time at the G20 summit. Picture: Getty

By Daisy Stephens

US President Joe Biden has said the US and China have a "responsibility" to "manage our differences" as he met his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.

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A statement from the White House said the pair "spoke candidly" about a number of issues including climate change, economic stability and global food security.

Mr Biden also raised objections to China's "coercive and increasingly aggressive actions toward Taiwan".

In the three-and-a-half hour meeting, the pair also discussed the war in Ukraine and "reiterated their agreement that a nuclear war should never be fought and can never be won".

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"We were very blunt with one another about places we disagreed or where we were uncertain of each other’s position, and we agreed we would set up mechanisms where key people in each of our administrations would meet to discuss how we could resolve them," said the US president.

"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."

He also raised concerns about Beijing's conduct in Xinjiang, Tibet, and Hong Kong.

Joe Biden and Xi Jinping 'candidly' discussed their differences, according to the White House
Joe Biden and Xi Jinping 'candidly' discussed their differences, according to the White House. Picture: Getty

World leaders have gathered in Bali for the G20 summit.

The event looks set to be dominated by the fallout from the Ukraine war, which has exacerbated global economic challenges, pushing up food and energy prices around the world.

Arriving in Indonesia on Monday ahead of the two-day gathering, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he will "unequivocally condemn" the invasion but appeared to acknowledge that the group was divided on the issue of explicitly criticising the war.

Divisions over the conflict are so deep that there is uncertainty over whether leaders will be able to agree a communique.

There will be no condemnation of the invasion as Russia, a G20 member, will not agree to condemn itself.

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While Western leaders have unanimously rebuked Russian President Vladimir Putin for the conflict, some G20 countries including China and India have remained neutral.

Mr Sunak left open the possibility that he could meet China's Xi Jinping at the gathering.

Asked about the apparent impossibility of jointly criticising Moscow, Mr Sunak told broadcasters at the Hilton Bali: "The G7 is a group of like-minded liberal democracies with similar values.

"The G20, we have to acknowledge, is a different grouping. But that doesn't mean that we shouldn't be engaged in it.

"We should make our voices heard and constructively work with people where we can to make a difference for people at home as well."

G20 leaders are gathering in Bali
G20 leaders are gathering in Bali. Picture: Getty

Mr Sunak plans to use the first plenary session on Tuesday to confront Russia's representative, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who was sent in Mr Putin's place.

He said: "I'm going to use this opportunity to unequivocally condemn Russia's hostile and illegal war in Ukraine.

"And I know that other allies will as well because it's right that we highlight what is going on and hold Russia to account for that and I won't shy away from doing that."

He said he would also use the summit to build "some strong relationships with other leaders like President Biden from America and the prime ministers of Japan, Australia and India".

Asked if that could include China, he said: "President Xi is here and like all the other leaders, hopefully I will have a chance to talk to him too."

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Mr Sunak has a number of bilateral meetings lined up, and will have plenty of opportunities to rub shoulders with other leaders at the summit's margins.

His series of one-on-ones began on Monday evening with drinks and nibbles with his Canadian counterpart Justin Trudeau.

Mr Sunak asked Mr Trudeau about his Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) visit, saying he was interested because the UK now has an Indo-Pacific tilt to its foreign policy.

Rishi Sunak conceded the G20 countries were not going to agree a stance on the war in Ukraine shortly before landing in Bali
Rishi Sunak conceded the G20 countries were not going to agree a stance on the war in Ukraine shortly before landing in Bali. Picture: Getty

Bali will be the first major diplomatic test for Mr Sunak, whose experience in Government has so far been almost entirely UK-focused, and a chance to set out his foreign policy vision.

As he arrived on the tropical island after a long-haul flight, the Prime Minister was met by a guard of honour and a group performing a traditional Balinese dance on the tarmac.

At the summit, he will call on fellow leaders to "step up to fix the weaknesses in the international economic system".

Mr Sunak will return to the UK on Thursday just in time for the budget, in which Jeremy Hunt could impose up to £60 billion in tax rises and spending cuts.