Biden In Virtual Summit With ‘Old Friend’ Xi Makes No Mention of COVID Origin

Biden In Virtual Summit With ‘Old Friend’ Xi Makes No Mention of COVID Origin

Little Changes Or Accountability From Biden In Talks With China

Mona Salama
Mona Salama
November 15, 2021

President Biden held a virtual summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping Monday evening, receiving a warm “old friend” greeting from his Chinese counterpart, but the meeting had no breakthroughs as the U.S. leader failed to put any pressure on dire issues including the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Although it’s not as good as a face-to-face meeting, I’m very happy to see my old friend,” the Chinese Communist Party leader Xi Jinping told Biden in his introduction.

Only the opening remarks between Biden and Xi were viewable by the public.

“You’re a major world leader, and so is the United States,” Biden told Xi in the introductory remarks. “It seems to me our responsibility as leaders of China and the United States to ensure that the competition between our countries does not veer into conflict, whether intended or unintended — just simple, straightforward competition.”

“It seems to me we need to establish some common-sense guardrails, be clear and honest where we disagree, and work together where our interests intersect, especially on vital global issues like climate change,” Biden added.

According to the White House readout of the virtual summit, Biden and Xi spoke for 3.5 hours and covered a “complex nature of relations between our two countries” while discussing nearly a dozen topics. The two superpowers talked about China’s “and economic practices,” “human rights more broadly,” Afghanistan, Iran, North Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Tibet, Xinjiang, “a free and open Indo-Pacific,” “health security,” “the climate crisis” and “global energy supplies.”

However, China’s lack of transparency on the origins of COVID-19 was never mentioned during Biden’s opening remarks nor referenced in the readout.

A Biden administration officials gave a broader detail of the meeting after midnight to reporters in a background call, saying the discussion was “respectful and straightforward” and the two leaders “didn’t just stick to the scripts.” They also added that Biden’s “longstanding position” is for the “One China” policy, noting the president “was very clear” about wanting “peace and stability” between China and Taiwan.

Also not mentioned during the long virtual summit was the 2022 Winter Olympics scheduled to be held in Beijing as there were no agreements about this topic ever made.

Biden has frequently mentioned during the 2020 campaign trail about his “old friend” relationship with Xi while he was Vice President in the Obama Administration. In his opening remarks that both leaders have “spent an awful lot of time talking to each other” and “maybe I should start more formally even though you and I have never been that formal with one another.”

So far, Biden has kept many of his predecessor, former President Trump’s policies toward China, including tariffs on Chinese goods and sanctions on Chinese officials for eliminating Hong Kong’s autonomy and its mistreatment towards Uyghur Muslim minorities.

Since taking office, Biden spoke to his Chinese counterpart twice by phone privately, back in February and the second time in September. In both those private discussions, Biden never pressed about the COVID origin.

Mona Salama

Mona Salama

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