President Joe Biden made no mention of the coronavirus pandemic on Monday during his opening remarks at a video conference meeting with Chinese Communist Party leader Xi Jinping.
“I’m happy we’ve found time to meet, and I look forward to candid and forthright discussions like all the discussions we’ve had thus far,” Biden said, adding that “we never walk away wondering what the other man is thinking.”
The president told Xi he would raise areas of concern for the United States, on issues “from human rights, to economics, and a free and open Indo-Pacific” as well as “climate change,” but he did not mention the coronavirus pandemic once during his opening remarks.
Biden noted during the meeting that he and Xi had a long history of spending time together.
“Maybe I should start more formally, even though you and I have never been that formal with one another,” he said.
Biden proposed setting up “guardrails” for both countries to make sure they did not end up conflicting with one another.
“It seems to me our responsibility as leaders of China and the United States is to ensure the competition between our countries does not veer into conflict, whether intended or unintended,” Biden continued. “Just simple straightforward competition.”
He noted that the United States would continue to stand up for global values.
“None of this is a favorite of each of our countries, what we do for one another, but it is just responsible world leadership and you’re a major world leader and so is the United States,” he said.
The president was joined by Secretary of State Tony Blinken, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and, National Security advisor Jake Sullivan. The press was allowed by the White House to witness the opening remarks from the two leaders before the meeting continued.
President Xi spoke warmly of President Joe Biden during his opening remarks of the meeting.
“It’s the first time for us to meet virtually. Although it is not as good as a face-to-face meeting, I’m very happy to see my old friend,” Xi said via a translator.
Xi has not left China for more than 600 days since his last trip in January 2020, but he proposed a virtual meeting in response to a Biden request for a personal meeting.
“Right now both China and the United States are at critical stages of global development and humanity lives in a global village, and we face multiple challenges together,” Xi said.
Xi said that as the two largest economies of the world, China and the United States “need to increase communication and cooperation” going forward, particularly on issues of “climate change” and the “COVID pandemic”
“China and the United States should respect each other, co-exist in peace, and pursue win-win cooperation,” he said.