China applauded a Tuesday virtual meeting between President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Joe Biden as a pathway to improved relations, as the two world powers looked to tone down ongoing tensions.
The leaders spoke for more than three hours in cordial tones, putting side previous caustic language, during their first official meeting since Biden took office, ABC News reported.
Xi described Biden as his “old friend,” with Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian describing the meeting as “conducive to increasing positive expectations for U.S.-China relations.”
Both sides remained firm in their positions on issues that have caused a rift between the U.S. and China, with Xi warning Washington over its role in protecting ally Taiwan, a self-governing island that China claims as its own.
The meeting was seen as an attempt to reboot relations after the significant decline that occurred during the Trump era, and which had continued since Biden’s inauguration in January.
Both Biden and Xi have been facing increasing domestic pressures, with economic and other internal issues causing concern. Both appeared to be making an effort to return to better relations during the meeting.
Biden began the meeting by saying: “As I’ve said before, it seems to me our responsibility as leaders of China and the United States is to ensure that the competition between our countries does not veer into conflict, whether intended or unintended.
He added that the relationship between the countries should be “just simple, straightforward competition.”
Xi’s opening remarks struck a similar tone: “China and the United States need to increase communication and cooperation.”
The leaders used the lengthy meeting to attempt to find common ground on issues of mutual interest, including trade, climate change, Afghanistan and North Korea.
The White House has stated that cooperating with China on climate change is mutually beneficial, despite tensions in other areas.
"None of this is a favor to either of our countries – what we do for one another – but it’s just responsible world leadership," Biden said during the meeting. “You’re a major world leader, and so is the United States.”