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Biden-Jinping Virtual Meeting Tamps Down Tension, Emphasizes Competition, Not Conflict

November 17, 2021

US President Joe Biden and counterpart Xi Jinping met by video link for the first time on Tuesday, November 16, 2021


Biden, Xi try to tamp down tension in long virtual meeting


November 16, 2021 GMT


President Joe Biden and China’s Xi Jinping’s more than three-hour virtual talk concluded with the leaders of the superpowers agreeing they need to tread carefully as their nations find themselves in an increasingly fraught competition.

Facing domestic pressures at home, both Biden and Xi seemed determined to lower the temperature in what for both sides is their most significant — and frequently turbulent — relationship on the global stage.

“As I’ve said before, 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,” Biden told Xi at the start of their virtual meeting Monday. “Just simple, straightforward competition.”

The White House set low expectations for the meeting, and no major announcements or even a joint statement were delivered. Still, White House officials said the two leaders had a substantive exchange.

Xi greeted the U.S. president as his “old friend” and echoed Biden’s cordial tone in his own opening remarks, saying, “China and the United States need to increase communication and cooperation.”

The relationship has had no shortage of tension since Biden strode into the White House in January and quickly criticized Beijing for human rights abuses against Uyghurs in northwest China, suppression of democratic protests in Hong Kong, military aggression against the self-ruled island of Taiwan and more. Xi’s deputies, meanwhile, have lashed out against the Biden White House for interfering in what they see as internal Chinese matters.

The White House in a statement said that Biden again raised concerns about China’s human rights practices, and made clear that he sought to “protect American workers and industries from the PRC’s unfair trade and economic practices.” The two also spoke about key regional challenges, including North Korea, Afghanistan and Iran.

As the U.S.-China tensions have mounted, both leaders also have found themselves under the weight of increased challenges in their own backyards.

Biden, who has watched his poll numbers diminish amid concerns about the lingering coronavirus pandemic, inflation and supply chain problems, was looking to find a measure of equilibrium on the most consequential foreign policy matter he faces.

Xi, meanwhile, is facing a COVID-19 resurgence, rampant energy shortages, and a looming housing crisis that Biden officials worry could cause tremors in the global market.

“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,” Xi said.

The U.S. president was joined in the Roosevelt Room for the video call by Secretary of State Antony Blinken and a handful of aides. Xi, for his part, was accompanied in the East Hall of the Great Hall of the People by communist party director Ding Xuexiang and a number of advisers.


The high-level diplomacy had a touch of pandemic Zoom meeting informality as the two leaders waved to each other once they saw one another on the screen, with Xi telling Biden, “It’s the first time for us to meet virtually, although it’s not as good as a face-to-face meeting.”

Biden would have preferred to meet Xi in person, but the Chinese leader has not left his country since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The White House floated the idea of a virtual meeting as the next best thing to allow for the two leaders to have a candid conversation about a wide range of strains in the relationship.

Xi told Biden that while it was nice to see him that a virtual meeting wasn’t “as good as a face-to-face meeting.”

Chinese officials said in advance that Taiwan would be their top issue for the talks. Tensions have heightened as the Chinese military has dispatched an increasing number of fighter jets near the self-ruled island of Taiwan, which Beijing considers part of its territory. Chinese military forces held exercises last week near Taiwan in response to a visit by a U.S. congressional delegation to the island.

“The Taiwan issue concerns China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as China’s core interest,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said Monday. “It is the most important and sensitive issue in China-U.S. relations.”

The White House said Biden reiterated the U.S. will abide by the longstanding U.S. “One China” policy, which recognizes Beijing but allows informal relations and defense ties with Taipei. But Biden also made clear the U.S. “strongly opposes unilateral efforts to change the status quo or undermine peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait,” the White House said.

With Beijing set to host the Winter Olympics in February and Xi expected to be approved by Communist Party leaders to serve as party leader next year and then a third term as president in 2023 — unprecedented in recent Chinese history — the Chinese leader may be looking to stabilize the relationship in the near term.

“China and the United States should respect each other, coexist in peace, and pursue win-win cooperation,” Xi said.

Despite his domestic problems, White House officials made the case that Biden was coming into the meeting from a position of strength.

Earlier Monday, Biden signed into law a $1 trillion infrastructure bill, legislation to upgrade the nation’s crumbling infrastructure that the Democrat argued is crucial for the U.S. as it seeks to retain a competitive edge over China.

“Because of this law, next year will be the first year in 20 years American infrastructure investment will grow faster than China’s,” Biden declared at his signing ceremony. “We will will once again have the best roads, bridges, ports and airports over the next decade.”

Both leaders gave nods to their history with the other. Biden noted that the two have spent an “awful ... lot of time” speaking to each other over the years, and have never walked away “wondering what the other man is thinking.” During their talk, both leaders recalled things that the others had said in past conversations as they sought to counter and drive home arguments, according to a senior Biden administration official who briefed reporters after the meeting on the condition of anonymity.

But the public warmth — Xi referred to Biden as his “old friend” when the then-vice president visited China in 2013, while Biden spoke of their “friendship” — has cooled now that both men are heads of state. Biden bristled in June when asked by a reporter if he would press his old friend to cooperate with a World Health Organization investigation into the coronavirus origins.

Xi, however, seemed interested in publicly reviving the warmth of the earlier days of their relationship, saying, “I am very happy to see my old friend.”

During the early going of the Biden administration, the two sides have frequently traded recriminations and the presidents’ top advisers have engaged in unproductive exchanges. But there have been moments of progress.

Last week, the U.S. and China pledged at U.N. climate talks in Glasgow, Scotland, to increase their cooperation and speed up action to rein in climate-damaging emissions.

Republicans have accused the Biden administration of failing to hold Beijing accountable on human rights for the sake of pursuing its climate agenda.

“As he turns a blind eye to human rights atrocities to pursue his political agenda, Biden has allowed China to threaten American security and our allies’ sovereignty, while undermining the advancement of freedom across the globe,” the Republican National Committee said in a statement shortly before the start of the leaders’ meeting.

The White House has said it views cooperation on climate change as something in China’s interest, something the two nations should cooperate on despite differences on other aspects of the relationship.

“None of this is a favor to either of our countries — what we do for one another — but it’s just responsible world leadership,” Biden told Xi. “You’re a major world leader, and so is the United States.”


Associated Press writer Ken Moritsugu in Beijing contributed to this report.

Biden, Xi try to tamp down tension in long virtual meeting (


China steps up opening up, supply chain security charm offensive in wake of Biden-Xi summit

Following the meeting between Xi Jinping and Joe Biden, Chinese Vice-President Wang Qishan and Premier Li Keqiang spoke about China opening up further Li also said that China wanted to work with all countries to keep industry and supply chains stable and enhance coordination of macro economic policies

Orange Wang

SCMP, 17 Nov, 2021

China’s leadership has ramped up its charm offensive with pledges for further opening up to foreign investment and more engagement in stabilising global supply chains following the meeting between President Xi Jinping and his US counterpart Joe Biden amid ongoing worries over the slowdown in the domestic economy.

Some 24 hours after Xi and Biden met for the first time via video on Tuesday, Chinese Vice-President Wang Qishan stressed that Beijing and Washington should keep their focus on cooperation, manage and control their differences to not only bring the bilateral relationship back on track, but also contribute to the world economic recovery and peace.

“China will keep its arms wide open, provide more market investment and growth opportunities to the world,” Wang told the Bloomberg New Economy Forum in Singapore on Wednesday.

A day earlier, following the 3½-hour meeting between Xi and his “old friend” Biden, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang had already stated that China wanted to work with all countries to keep industry and supply chains stable and enhance coordination of macro economic policies.

We may focus on commerce, trade and economy in our discussion, but we all need a peaceful environment for this to happenLi Keqiang

“We may focus on commerce, trade and economy in our discussion, but we all need a peaceful environment for this to happen,” he told over 300 business leaders from over 40 countries as part of a “special dialogue” on Tuesday organised by the World Economic Forum.

The meeting between Xi and Biden was aimed at defusing tensions between the world’s two largest economies, while also calling for more pragmatic cooperation in the fields of trade and economy.

But there has been widespread concern among foreign business communities in China that they might face tougher challenges and a more closed economic system stemming from the country’s push for self-reliance under the so-called duel circulation strategy, a focus on national security and rising nationalism.

The concerns were aggravated by Beijing’s regulatory crackdown on large swatches of the economy earlier this year, from private tutoring to internet giants and property developers, which then prompted Chinese regulators to offer assurances to foreign investors.

Xi Jinping and Joe Biden call for mutual respect and peaceful China-US coexistence

“Opening up to the outside world is a basic national policy and hallmark of China, China’s determination to expand its high-level opening up will not change, so does its determination to share development opportunities with the world,” Xi told his White House counterpart on Tuesday.

Xi also urged Biden to return US policy on China to a rational track and called for the two sides to “solve specific problems” in bilateral trade and economic ties.

“China and the US, respectively the world‘s biggest developing country and the biggest developed country, whether they can handle the relationship well bears on the future of the world,” Wang added on Wednesday.

He said that the two countries “should act on the important common understandings reached between the two presidents” and reiterated that Beijing will not waver in its resolve to deepen reform and opening up.

China cannot develop in isolation of the world and nor can the world develop without ChinaWang Qishan

“China cannot develop in isolation of the world and nor can the world develop without China,” he added.

“Openness brings progress, whereas isolation leads to backwardness. We need to promote trade and investment liberalisation and facilitation, bring down trade and knowledge barriers, stay away from discriminatory and exclusive rules and systems, and keep the functioning of supply chains stable and smooth.”

Premier Li also said on Tuesday that China would stick to free trade and multilateralism.

China has applied to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), while the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership will come into effect in January.

“Above all, we must remain committed to peace and development. Free trade and multilateralism have proven to be effective in safeguarding global peace,” he said.

US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, though, confirmed on Wednesday also at the Bloomberg New Economy Forum that the United States would not be joining the CPTPP trade pact for now and would be trying to increase trade and deepen relationships outside the Asia-Pacific trade deal.

Originally known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, it was spearheaded by the US under the Obama administration until former US president Donald Trump pulled out of the pact in his first days in office in 2017.


Orange Wang covers the Chinese macroeconomy, and has many years of experience with China's monetary and fiscal policy moves. He also covered global market and financial news for a long time, with a particular focus on new technologies and their influences on economic growth and society. Before joining the South China Morning Post, Orange worked as a Shanghai Correspondent for ET Net, a Hong Kong financial news agency.

China steps up opening up, supply chain security charm offensive in wake of Biden-Xi summit | South China Morning Post (


China calls for global cooperation to improve energy supplies as power prices surge across the world

Ren Hongbin, China’s assistant commerce minister, says countries should ‘strengthen policy coordination’ to steady volatile energy prices China, which relies on coal to keep its economy running, has been gripped by one of its worst power crises ever since September

Amanda Lee + FOLLOW

SCMP, 16 Nov, 2021

China, which relies on coal to keep its economy running, has been gripped by one of its worst power crises in years recently. Photo: Xinhua

China wants to see more international cooperation to stabilise power prices and boost the global energy trade, the nation’s assistant commerce minister has said, as the world’s No 2 economy looks to steady domestic supply after weeks of disruptions.

Market volatility had increased as a result of global energy shortages driven by a sharp uptick in post-pandemic demand and extreme weather, Ren Hongbin said.

Slow investment in energy projects due to earlier forecasts of low oil and gas prices have exacerbated the power crisis, Ren was quoted as saying by the at the 10th China International Oil and Gas Trade Congress in Shanghai on Monday.

“It is hoped that the energy industries of various countries will take coordinated action to promote global energy trade, investment and production capacity coordination, jointly maintain the stability of the energy market, and to boost sustained recovery and growth of the world,” the minister said.

To a certain extent, national energy security requires international trade to facilitateLuo Yizhou

To steady prices, Ren said countries should “strengthen policy coordination” and “balance new energy and traditional energy”.

Speaking at the same event, Luo Yizhou, deputy general manager of PetroChina International, acknowledged the importance of multilateral cooperation in China’s long-term energy security.

“To a certain extent, national energy security requires international trade to facilitate,” Luo was quoted as saying.

Global energy prices surged in the third quarter of this year, with spot prices for natural gas more than quadrupling to record levels in Europe and Asia compared to last year, and the ripple effects being felt in markets for commodities like coal and oil, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

China increases coal production to ensure winter supplies, easing energy shortage

“Our expectation is that these prices will revert to more normal levels early next year when heating demand ebbs and supplies adjust. However, if prices stay high as they have been, this could begin to be a drag on global growth,” the IMF said in a blog post on October 21.

China, which relies on coal to keep its economy running, has been gripped by one of its worst power crises in years amid domestic shortages for the fossil fuel.

Though there are signs the crisis is easing, businesses and residents have had to grapple with nationwide power rationing and blackouts since September.

High coal prices also sent China’s producer price index, which reflects the prices factories charge wholesalers for their products, to their highest point since 1995 in October at 13.5 per cent, compared to 10.7 per cent in September, squeezing profit margins of many small to medium sized manufacturers.

The power crisis prompted Beijing to liberalise the state-controlled electricity pricing mechanism to alleviate operating difficulties for coal-fired power companies.

The government also reversed a decision to curb coal production by ordering domestic miners to pump up output.

China’s top economic planning agency, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), said on Tuesday coal production had increased steadily since November, after hitting 60 million tonnes in October, a year on year increase of 4 per cent.

Meng Wei, a spokeswoman for the NDRC, said the economic planner would continue to “supervise and urge coal mines” to increase production capacity, while working with relevant departments to ensure supply and price stability.

China’s power crisis ‘man-made’, and miscalculations by Beijing serve as ‘a very painful lesson’ 10 Nov 2021

China has also been importing more coal, oil and gas to ease its power crunch. In the first three quarters of the year, crude oil and natural gas imports increased by 32.4 per cent and 39.8 per cent, respectively, while October coal imports almost doubled by volume from a year ago to 26.9 million tonnes, according to customs data.

“Import demand for energy-related commodities should stay strong as China is likely to continue to face energy shortages through the winter,” said Oxford Economics in a research note last week.

In a forecast late last month, the World Bank said energy prices would be on average more than 80 per cent higher in 2021 than last year. There were also risks of additional price spikes in the near-term, amid very low inventories and persistent supply bottlenecks.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: China wants global action to tackle power crisis


Beijing-based correspondent Amanda Lee covers markets and the economy for the Post, with an interest in China's economic and social landscape. A graduate of the London School of Economics, she joined the Post in 2017 and has previously worked for Thomson Reuters and Forbes.

China calls for global cooperation to improve energy supplies as power prices surge across the world | South China Morning Post (


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