An anonymous senior American official confirmed to the press on Wednesday that U.S. president Joe Biden and Chinese president Xi Jinping had agreed to hold a “virtual bilateral” meeting by the end of December.
The official noted that Biden and Xi had not seen each other since Biden’s term as Vice President ended in 2017, although the two leaders spoke by phone on September 9.
“The president said how nice it would be to see Xi, which he has not done for some years,” the official noted, observing that the coronavirus-era restrictions would most likely make the meeting virtual rather than physical.
One topic of discussion between the two leaders will most likely be the situation with regard to Taiwan, which China regards as a renegade province rather than an independent government. Following October 1, China’s National Day, a series of Chinese planes—nearly 150 over a one-week period—entered Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ), an area outside the island’s formal airspace over which it insists positive identification from all aircraft.
On Tuesday, Biden told reporters that he understood Xi’s position on Taiwan and that both leaders had agreed to abide by the “Taiwan agreement,” in which Washington maintains cordial relations with Taipei, but officially supports the “One China” policy decreeing that China and Taiwan are part of the same nation.
“I don’t think he should be doing anything other than abiding by the agreement,” the president added with regard to Xi’s actions. The State Department had earlier criticized those actions as “provocative” and “destabilizing.”
On Wednesday, U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and Chinese head diplomat Yang Jiechi met in Switzerland, where they discussed “areas where the United States and the PRC (People's Republic of China) have an interest in working together,” according to the White House’s abridged readout of the meeting.
The readout also noted that Sullivan had raised points of disagreement with China, including “actions related to human rights, Xinjiang, Hong Kong, the South China Sea, and Taiwan.” However, it noted that Sullivan had underlined the importance of continuing dialogue between Washington and Beijing “to ensure responsible competition.”
Tensions have also risen after the United States committed to aiding Australia, which has engaged in a war of words with China, by supplying it with nuclear submarine technology.
No date has been established for the Biden-Xi meeting yet, although the anonymous official claimed that the decision to hold it had been “agree[d] in principle” by both sides.
Trevor Filseth is a current and foreign affairs writer for the National Interest.