President Joe Biden and China’s Xi Jinping will hold their much-anticipated virtual summit on Monday evening as the two sides look to dial back tensions after a rough start to the US-China relationship since Mr Biden took office earlier this year.
The White House is setting low expectations for the video call, saying no major announcements are expected to come from the meeting.
Mr Biden aims to stress that the two nations need to set limits in deepening areas of conflict in the increasingly complicated relationship between the two nations.
“The two leaders will discuss ways to responsibly manage the competition between the United States and the PRC (People’s Republic of China), as well as ways to work together where our interests align,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement announcing the summit.
“Throughout, President Biden will make clear US intentions and priorities and be clear and candid about our concerns.”
The meeting will be the third engagement between the two leaders since February. It comes after the US and China this week pledged at UN climate talks in Glasgow to increase their co-operation and speed up action to rein in climate-damaging emissions.
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan and senior Chinese foreign policy adviser Yang Jiechi came to an agreement on holding the Biden-Xi virtual summit by the end of the year, when they met last month for talks in Zurich.
The virtual meeting was proposed after Mr Biden, who spent a substantial amount of time with Mr Xi when the two were vice presidents, mentioned during a September phone call with the Chinese leader that he would like to be able to see him again, according to the White House.
Mr Xi has not left China during the coronavirus pandemic. White House officials proposed a virtual summit as the best substitute for the two to have a substantive conversation on a number of issues that have put strains on the US-China relationship.
“We hope the US will work together with China to jointly strive to make the leaders’ summit a success and bring China-US ties back to the right track of sound and stable development,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said.
There has been no shortage of tension in the relationship in recent months as Mr Biden has made clear he sees Beijing’s actions on a number of fronts as concerning.
The president criticised Beijing for human rights abuses against ethnic minorities in north-west China, cracking down on pro-democracy efforts in Hong Kong, and resisting global pressure to co-operate fully with investigations into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.
Tensions have also been exacerbated recently by the Chinese military flying dozens of sorties near the self-ruled island of Taiwan, which Beijing considers part of its territory.
Mr Biden, at the G20 meeting in Rome and again at the UN climate gathering, criticised Mr Xi for failing to show up at the summits, where world leaders discussed the way forward on the pandemic and steps to ease the impact of climate change.
“I think it’s been a big mistake, quite frankly, for China… not showing up,” Mr Biden said in Glasgow.
“The rest of the world is going to look to China and say, what value added have they provided?”
Both leaders took part in Friday’s Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (Apec) virtual meeting, where leaders discussed efforts to end the Covid-19 pandemic and support the global economic recovery.