President Joe Biden landed in Bali on Sunday evening ahead of a meeting with President Xi Jinping on Monday, after telling Asian leaders that the US’s lines of communication with China would stay open to prevent conflict.
He arrived for a G20 summit on the Indonesian island – his third major summit in a round-the-world foreign policy blast.
He was greeted by pink and gold shrouded performers who put on a traditional dance of welcome.
Hours earlier, he told southeast Asian leaders in Cambodia, said the United States would ‘compete vigorously with Beijing while ‘ensuring competition does not veer into conflict.’
The meeting with Xi – their first since Biden became president – is the most pivotal part of his week long trip
Both sides are keen to get a better grip of the others priorities and red lines after two years in which relations have all but frozen.
President Joe Biden was greeted with a traditional dance of welcome when he landed on the Indonesian island of Bali on Sunday evening, ahead of the G20 summit
He flew in from Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where he had been meeting with southeastern Asian leaders. They compared notes ahead of his meeting with Xi Jinping on Monday
Observers say it means the meeting will be more like Cold War era summits between the Soviet Union and the U.S. – a high stakes summit on neutral territory where both sides simply want to try to understand the other a little better.
On the eve of the meeting, Democrats retained control of the Senate with the result of the race in Nevada.
‘I know I’m coming in stronger,’ Biden told reporters traveling with him in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, ‘but I didn’t need that.
‘I know Xi Jinping, I’ve spent more time with him than any other world leader.
‘I know him well. He knows me.
‘We have very little misunderstanding and we just got to figure out where the red lines are.’
President Joe Biden on Sunday celebrated his party holding the Senate, and said it would send him into Monday’s meeting with Xi Jinping in a stronger position
Xi consolidated his own power last month with a Chinese Communist Party congress that extended his rule for another 10-year term
Democrats retained control of the Senate with a 50th seat called for the party on Saturday
It comes after Xi cemented his own power at a Chinese Communist Party congress that extended his own rule for 10 years.
It means Chinese officials will not be able to hold up Biden as a lame duck, said Andrew Small, a China scholar whose new book ‘No Limits: The Inside Story of China’s War with the West’ is published this week.
‘You were going to have a context in which all the Chinese messages about the frailties and failings of Western democracy and US political turmoil and things are going to be considerably strengthened,’ he said.
Officials say there will be no joint statement or communiqué after the meeting on Monday on the sidelines of the G20 summit on the Indonesian island of Bali.
Both sides have played down expectations as they try to rebuild a relationship that has been fractured by years of tension, saber rattling and economic competition.
Small said both sides were looking to find ‘a floor’ for the relationship.
North Korea has accelerated the pace of missile launches in recent weeks, amid concerns it could be about to conduct another nuclear test
American officials have long wanted China to use its considerable economic leverage over North Korea to try to rein in Pyongyang’s unpredictable leader Kim Jong Un
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan in August also angered China
‘I think this is partly exploratory, partly about stabilising the relationship – you’ve barely had a functional bilateral relationship between the US and China in the last couple of years,’ he told DailyMail.com.
The result is what some analysts have called the first superpower summit of the second Cold War.
Xi and Biden have known each other since 2011, when President Barack Obama tasked his vice president with getting to know a high flyer within the Chinese Communist Party.
They have spoken five times by phone since Biden took office, but Monday will be their first face-to-face president-to-president meeting.
‘I think they are all aware that being able to sit down with him, in person, there’s a slightly different level of how candid they’re able to be and what those dynamics are like,’ said Small.
‘And so this is going to be a testing occasion for the two sides too, trying to sound out where they are really at on some really fundamental questions.’
The latest flashpoint came last month, when the Biden administration moved to ban the sale of cutting-edge microchips to China.
Now officials say Biden will want to understand where Xi stands on China’s growing relationship with Russia, its designs on the island of Taiwan, and whether it is willing to do anything to rein in North Korea’s aggression.
Biden has spoken to Xi five times since taking office. But Monday’s meeting will be the first time they have spoken face-to-face since Biden became president
Biden arrived in Egypt Friday to address the COP27 climate summit on the first leg of an around-the-world trip that takes him on to Cambodia and Indonesia
On Saturday, Biden’s national security adviser told reporters that Biden would not demand anything from Xi on North Korea – but he would set out the American position.
‘He’s going to tell President Xi his perspective, which is that North Korea represents a threat not just to the United States, not just to the Republic of Korea or Japan, but to peace and stability across the entire region,’ Jake Sullivan told reporters on Air Force One.
National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan spoke to reporters on Air Force One on Saturday
‘And if North Korea keeps going down this road, it will simply mean further enhanced American military and security presence in the region.’
Then there is Russia.
The Chinese leader has largely refrained from public criticism of Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine while declining to actively support Moscow with the supply of weapons.
‘We believe that, of course, every country in the world should do more to prevail upon Russia, especially those who have relationships with Russia, to end this war and leave Ukraine,’ said Sullivan.
For the Chinese, there is no more important question that Taiwan.
Beijing sees the self-governing island as part of its own territory, and talks in terms of reunification – ultimately by force if necessary.
Xi will want clarity on the U.S. position after Biden himself has repeatedly said Washington would defend Taiwan against Chinese invasion – going beyond official American policy.
Washington has at times also appeared to divert from its formal position of not supporting independence for the autonomous island.
And then there was House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit in August, when she became the highest ranking American to travel to Taiwan since 1997 – much to the fury of Beijing and the discomfort of the White House.
‘They don’t want to stumble into something on Taiwan that’s dangerous, said Small. ‘The risks just escalate considerably.’