Chinese President Xi Jinping called the US-China relationship ‘the most important bilateral relationship in the world.’
US President Joe Biden has met Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of an economic summit in California, where they shook hands and spoke about ways to improve bruised relations.
The meeting took place on Wednesday during a conference for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperative (APEC), and comes amid a period of mounting tension between Washington and Beijing.
Biden said that the two countries should strive to make sure they do not “veer into conflict” and manage their relationship “responsibly”.
Xi called the US-China relationship “the most important bilateral relationship in the world”, and said he and Biden “shoulder heavy responsibilities for the two peoples, for the world, and for history”.
“For two large countries like China and the United States, turning their back on each other is not an option,” he said. “It is unrealistic for one side to remodel the other, and conflict and confrontation has unbearable consequences for both sides.”
Officials on both sides of the Pacific have set expectations low as Biden and Xi are set to discuss Taiwan, the South China Sea, the Israel-Hamas war, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, North Korea and human rights – areas where the leaders have been unable to resolve long-standing disagreements.
Cooperation between the US and China, which make up the first and second-largest economies in the world, respectively, remains vital for progress on global issues such as climate change. But both sides have expressed mounting frustration with the other, disagreeing over issues such as technology and global politics.
Washington has accused China of offering Russia an economic lifeline as Moscow carries out a bloody invasion of Ukraine, which the US has backed with military assistance and humanitarian aid.
The two sides have also differed on issues in the Middle East, where China has called for a ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinian armed group HaInternalmas. The US has used its position on the United Nations Security Council to veto calls for a ceasefire and has thrown its support behind Israel.
The two have also clashed over technology and trade, with the US instituting new measures in an effort to hobble China’s microchip industry.
During the meeting, Biden is expected to press Xi to use China’s influence to urge Iran to avoid provocative action or encouraging its proxies to enter the fray in moves that could spread the Israel-Hamas conflict across the Middle East.
He is also expected to raise alleged Chinese operations to influence foreign elections, the status of US citizens that Washington believes are wrongly detained in China and human rights.
US officials expected concrete steps to restore staff-level conversations between the two countries on issues from military-to-military communications to reducing the flow of fentanyl, managing the growth of artificial intelligence technologies, and managing trade and climate.
Many of the chemicals used to make the opioid drug fentanyl come from China, US officials say.
Before the meeting, both countries backed a new renewable energy target and said they would work to reduce methane and plastic pollution, a renewal of climate cooperation that was suspended after former US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan in 2022.