What’s on the Agenda when Biden Meets Xi

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U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping are due to hold a virtual meeting Monday evening in what the White House says will be a discussion on ways to “responsibly manage the competition between the United States and the PRC” (People’s Republic of China). The White House is playing down expectations ahead of the meeting, planning no specific outcomes or joint statements afterward. Here’s a rundown of topics each side is interested in talking about — as well as what they would prefer to avoid.

Trade and supply chain

American business groups have already publicly lobbied the White House to reduce tariffs on some $300 billion of imported Chinese goods and loosen import duty exemptions. The White House has been pressing Beijing to purchase the additional $200 billion in American goods it agreed to in former President Donald Trump’s “Phase 1” trade deal nearly two years ago. While supply chain bottlenecks affect both countries’ economies, it’s unclear what actionable measures each side is seeking.


Chinese state media reported Monday that Xi Jinping is expected to warn Washington to “step back” on the Taiwan issue, saying that showing restraint will reduce the risk of a “strategic collision” between China and the U.S. Washington has been holding firm to a decades-old policy that recognizes Beijing as the only legal government of China, but the U.S., also acknowledging Beijing’s view that Taiwan is part of China, continues to have unofficial relations with Taiwan. The U.S. has long maintained that efforts to determine the future of Taiwan by other than peaceful means would be a regional security threat and of grave concern to the United States.

Beijing Olympics

Beijing hosts the 2022 Winter Olympics this February, and during Monday’s meeting Xi may personally invite Biden to attend. Human rights groups, some U.S. lawmakers and others have called for a boycott of the Games over Beijing’s repressive human rights policies, the political crackdowns in Hong Kong and genocide against Uyghurs in Xinjiang, which China has denied. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said Washington is talking to countries about their plans on participating in the Games. China has long rejected foreign criticism of its human rights policies, calling it illegitimate.


During the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, Washington and Beijing announced they would work together to slash emissions and meet regularly to address the climate crisis. Climate has long been seen as a viable area of cooperation, but so far, low-level talks between the two countries this year have resulted in little concrete progress.

Xinjiang and human rights

The White House says it expects Biden to tell China that it must “play by the rules of the road” as a global superpower, but it’s unclear how much he will press the Chinese over policies targeting ethnic Uyghurs and Beijing’s human rights practices. Biden will likely bring up the case of Americans detained in China, including Daniel Hsu. China routinely rejects all such criticism as illegitimate intrusions on what Beijing considers internal issues.

People-to-people exchanges

Beijing likely wants to discuss furthering people-to-people exchanges that have long been a part of diplomatic outreach between the two nations. The pandemic and ongoing political tensions have seen a drop in Chinese students attending American universities. A recent report said students from China last year declined by 14.8% from the previous year to 317,299, or 34.7% of all international students in the United States.

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