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US President Joe Biden (right) and Chinese President Xi Jinping hold a meeting on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Nusa Dua on the Indonesian resort island of Bali, on November 14, 2022. Image Credit: AFP

Bali: Joe Biden and Xi Jinping concluded the first in-person meeting between the leaders of the US and China since the pandemic began after about three hours on Monday, with both calling for reduced tensions between the world’s largest economies.

The White House said in a statement that Secretary of State Antony Blinken would travel to China, in a sign of a thaw in relations.

The countries will also resume talks between senior officials on issues including climate change, economic stability and debt relief, and health and food security, according to the statement.

Xi on his part told Biden that China, US ‘share more, not less’ common interests, the Chinese foreign ministry said.

“The Taiwan question is at the very core of China’s core interests, the bedrock of the political foundation of China-US relations, and the first red line that must not be crossed in China-US relations,” Xi was reported to have told Biden, state news agency Xinhua said, following the over three-hour talks.

Xi told the US president that the world is ‘big enough’ for US, China to both prosper.

The Chinese leader also told Biden ‘Taiwan question’ is ‘first red line that must not be crossed’ in US-China relations.

Leaders ‘agreed’ nukes should never be used

Biden and Xi agreed in talks that nuclear weapons should never be used, including in Ukraine, the White House said.

“President Biden and President Xi reiterated their agreement that a nuclear war should never be fought and can never be won and underscored their opposition to the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine,” it said in a statement.

The pair shook hands at the start of the meeting, with Biden saying the superpowers shared the responsibility to show the world that they can “manage our differences, prevent competition from becoming conflict”.

The White House said he had told Xi that Washington would “continue to compete vigorously” with China, but “this competition should not veer into conflict”.

Biden told Xi the world should encourage North Korea to act “responsibly”, after a record-breaking series of missile launches by Pyongyang and growing fears of a new nuclear test.

“Good to see you,” Biden said to Xi before they joined US and Chinese officials. The two sides sat at long conference tables with a display of flowers between them.

'Good to see you'

“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 a conflict, and to find ways to work together on urgent global issues that require our mutual cooperation,” Biden said at the start of the meeting.

“The world expects, I believe, China and the United States to play key roles in addressing global challenges, from climate changes to food insecurity, and for us to be able to work together,” Biden added. “The United States stands ready to do just that, work with you - if that’s what you desire.”

Xi told Biden, “It’s good to see you.”

“Currently, the China-US relationship is in such a situation that we all care a lot about it, because this is not the fundamental interest of our two countries and peoples and it’s not what the international community expects of us,” Xi said, through a translator. He said the two sides “need to find the right direction” and “elevate the relationship.”

“A statesman should think about and know where to lead his country. He should also think about and know how to get along with other countries and the wider world,” Xi told Biden. “Humanity is confronted with unprecedented challenges. The world expects that China and the United States will properly handle the relationship.”

Cambodia Prelude

Before meeting Xi, Biden talked with the leaders of Japan, South Korea and Australia on Sunday, which White House officials described as prelude for the much-anticipated gathering with the Chinese leader. The president explained his approach and asked the US allies their concerns.

Biden separately used a summit in Cambodia with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations to firm up relationships in a region where China is by far the top trading partner.

While US officials declined to spell out any specific outcomes they expect from the Xi meeting, they said he would seek to set guardrails around a relationship that has deteriorated since Biden took office - bringing the two countries perilously close to economic or even military conflict.