Biden, Xi stress better communication between US, China

US President Joe Biden and China’s Xi Jinping opened a virtual summit Monday with an appeal for better communication between the superpowers and what Biden called “guardrails” to avoid conflict. Speaking from the White House to Xi on a television screen, Biden emphasized the need for settling a relationship rocked by high-stakes disputes.

“It seems to me that our responsibility as leaders of China and the United States to ensure that the competition between our countries does not veer into conflict, whether intended or unintended. Just simple, straightforward competition,” Biden said. He said they would have a “candid” discussion.

Xi, speaking from Beijing, called Biden “my old friend,” but said the rivals must work more closely. “We face multiple challenges together. As the world’s two largest economies and permanent members of the UN Security Council, China and the United States need to increase communication and cooperation,” he said, speaking through an interpreter in brief public remarks, before they went behind closed doors.

The two leaders have spoken by phone twice since Biden’s inauguration in January but with Xi refusing to travel abroad because of the pandemic, an online video meeting was the only option short of an in-person summit. Both Biden and Xi emphasized the need for their countries to work together on major global issues, especially Covid-19 and climate change. “A sound and steady China-US relationship” is needed “for safeguarding a peaceful and stable international environment,” Xi said.

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