President Biden met face-to-face with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday in a high stakes meeting between the leaders of two global powers.
Biden and Xi held their first in-person meeting in one year during the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in San Francisco, where they were expected to discuss improved military communications, stopping the flow of fentanyl, and global security issues like the conflicts in Israel and Ukraine.
“We’ve known each other for a long time. We haven’t always agreed, which is not a surprise to anyone, but our meetings have always been candid, straightforward and useful,” Biden said at the outset of the meeting while seated directly across the table from Xi.
“It is paramount that you and I understand each other clearly, leader to leader, with no misconceptions or miscommunication. We have to ensure that competition does not veer into conflict, and we also have to manage it responsibly,” Biden added.
The face-to-face was months in the making, with several top Biden administration officials traveling to China in recent months in a bid to ease tensions. Biden met last month with China’s top diplomat during a trip to Washington, D.C.
But Biden said there is “no substitute” for leader-to-leader discussions.
Xi said he looked forward to have an “in-depth exchange of views.”
“Planet Earth is big enough for the two countries to succeed, and one country’s success is an opportunity for the other,” Xi said through an interpreter.
Biden was flanked during the meeting by Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. Others at the long table for the meeting included Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and special envoy on climate issues John Kerry.
The meeting was expected to last several hours, with Biden holding a press conference later Wednesday.
White House officials have tried to manage expectations heading into Wednesday’s summit, making the case that it is a chance to reestablish military-to-military communications between the countries to ensure the relationship is on solid footing.
Biden has repeatedly said he wants there to be competition, not conflict between the two countries, and he has pushed back against the idea of the United States decoupling its economy from Beijing.
At the same time, he has taken a firm approach toward China during his first two years in office, putting an emphasis on bolstering U.S. alliances in the Indo-Pacific to counter Beijing’s influence.
The Biden administration restarted the Quad Alliance with Japan, India and Australia, established a submarine deal with Australia and has pushed globally for greater investments in the World Bank to provide an alternative to China for developing nations seeking funding.
Earlier this year, Biden referred to Xi as a “dictator” during a fundraiser, though he has downplayed the possibility that the remark may have negatively impacted relations with China.
Updated 2:55 p.m. ET
Alex Gangitano contributed.