Biden, Xi want bilateral cooperation ahead of first virtual summit

United States President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping expressed the desire for their countries to work together on Tuesday, ahead of their first virtual summit expected to take place in the coming weeks.

The two leaders acknowledged that the relationship between China and the US had global ramifications in letters that were read out at the annual gala dinner of the National Committee on US-China Relations – a non-profit group.

Mr Biden said: “From tackling the Covid-19 pandemic to addressing the existential threat of climate crisis, the relationship between the US and China has global significance. Solving these challenges and seizing these opportunities will require the broader international community to come together as we each do our part to build a safe, peaceful and resilient future.”

Mr Xi strongly urged cooperation in his letter, saying China stood ready to work with the US to jointly address global challenges.

“China-US relations are at a critical historical juncture. Both countries will gain from cooperation and lose from confrontation. Cooperation is the only right choice,” he said. In the meantime, China would work with the US to properly manage their differences and get their relationship back on track, he added.

The two leaders have spoken on the phone twice since Mr Biden took office in January and have agreed to meet via video conference call for their first summit by the end of the year.

Bloomberg reported on Tuesday the virtual summit could take place next week, although neither the US nor China has confirmed a date.

On Monday, White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre reiterated that Washington and Beijing had “an agreement in principle” to have a virtual summit before the end of the year.

“This is part of our ongoing efforts to responsibly manage the competition between our countries,” she said, stressing that it was “not about seeking specific deliverables”. Working-level discussions on the specifics of the meeting were ongoing, she added.

At a regular media briefing yesterday in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin gave few details on the meeting. “At present, China and the US are maintaining close communication on the specific arrangements for the meeting of the two heads of state,” he said.

The meeting presents a chance for the rival superpowers to set the tone for their relationship going forward.

Though this relationship has not been as tempestuous as it was during former president Donald Trump’s trade war with China, both countries are now entrenched in long-term strategic competition in technology, global influence and a host of other issues, with both of them placing restrictions on each other’s companies and citizens.

China-US relations are at a critical historical juncture. Both countries will gain from cooperation and lose from confrontation. Cooperation is the only right choice.

From tackling the Covid-19 pandemic to addressing the existential threat of climate crisis, the relationship between the US and China has global significance. 

Mr Qin Gang, China’s Ambassador to the US since July, said in remarks at Tuesday night’s gala dinner that he had arrived in Washington at a “very difficult and challenging time”.

“In the past few years, China-US relations have been seriously undermined. This does not serve the fundamental interests of the two peoples,” he said.

Echoing Mr Xi, Mr Qin said China would work with the US and “make unremitting efforts to take US-China relations back to the right track”.

“Some people say the China-US relationship cannot go back to the past. But is that a reason for people to take it lightly or even damage it as they wish? No, we reject this view,” he added.

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