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Highlights of Recent Biden, Xi Statements Ahead of Talks at APEC Summit

FILE - A screen shows Chinese President Xi Jinping attending a virtual meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden via video link, at a restaurant in Beijing, China, Nov. 16, 2021. The two leaders are to meet in San Francisco this week.
FILE - A screen shows Chinese President Xi Jinping attending a virtual meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden via video link, at a restaurant in Beijing, China, Nov. 16, 2021. The two leaders are to meet in San Francisco this week.

U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping are expected to meet for bilateral talks on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in San Francisco this week. It would be the first direct contact between the two heads of state since their meeting in Bali, Indonesia.

Voice of America has compiled remarks made by the two leaders since their meeting last November, reflecting U.S.-China relations from a low point in the wake of the spy balloon incident to the gradual thaw over the past 12 months.

Biden on Chinese spy balloon incident

In February, a high-altitude balloon originating from China flew across U.S. and Canadian airspace until Biden ordered the U.S. military to shoot it down. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken postponed his planned visit to China. And U.S.-China relations, which had been easing since the November Biden-Xi meeting in Bali, rapidly chilled.

In shooting down the balloon, Biden said on February 16, the U.S. was "sending a clear message — clear message: The violation of our sovereignty is unacceptable. We will act to protect our country, and we did." He also placed restrictions on six firms that directly support the People's Liberation Army aerospace program, denying them access to U.S. technology.

"This episode underscores the importance of maintaining open lines of communication between our diplomats and our military professionals. Our diplomats will be engaging further, and I will remain in communication with President Xi," he added.

On competition with China

Biden has spoken several times this year about his position on the competitive relationship between the U.S. and China.

"I've made clear with President Xi that we seek competition, not conflict," he said during his State of the Union address on February 7. "I will make no apologies that we are investing to make America strong. Investing in American innovation, in industries that will define the future, and that China's government is intent on dominating. Investing in our alliances and working with our allies to protect our advanced technologies so they're not used against us. Modernizing our military to safeguard stability and deter aggression."

In September, Biden traveled to India to attend the G20 summit, then to Vietnam, where he spoke to reporters in Hanoi.

"First of all, the — I am sincere about getting the relationship right. And one of the things that is going on now is China is beginning to change some of the rules of the game, in terms of trade and other issues," he said.

"It's not about isolating China," he continued, "It's about making sure the rules of the road — everything from airspace and — and space and in the ocean is — the international rules of the road are — are — are abided by."

On China's economy

Biden talked about China during a political fundraiser in Utah on August 10, calling it a "ticking time bomb" because of economic challenges, including weak growth.

"That's not good because when bad folks have problems, they do bad things," he said.

He echoed the sentiment at the September 10 news conference in Hanoi.

"I think China has a difficult economic problem right now for a whole range of reasons that relate to the international growth and lack thereof and the — the policies that China has followed. … We're not looking to hurt China, sincerely. We're all better off if China does well — if China does well by the international rules. … But they have had some real difficulty in terms of their economy of late, particularly in real estate."

On 'de-risking' with China

The Biden administration introduced semiconductor chip export controls on China last year and signed an executive order restricting U.S. investment in China in certain high-tech fields this year.

"What I'm not going to do is I'm not going to sell China material that would enhance their capacity to make more nuclear weapons, to engage in defense activities that are contrary to what is viewed as most people would think was a positive development in the region. … but we're not trying to hurt China."

On Xi Jinping

Biden has likened Chinese Leader Xi Jinping to a dictator.

In his State of the Union address, he said, "In the past two years, democracies have become stronger, not weaker. Autocracies have grown weaker, not stronger. Name me a world leader who'd change places with Xi Jinping. Name me one."

And at a campaign fundraiser in California in June, he said the reason "Xi Jinping got very upset in terms of when I shot that balloon down with two boxcars full of spy equipment in it is he didn't know it was there. … That's what's a great embarrassment for dictators, when they didn't know what happened."

Xi's remarks

Unlike politicians in Western countries, Chinese leader Xi Jinping rarely delivers impromptu speeches, holds news conferences, or answers reporters' questions.

His speeches are carefully prepared and rarely directly criticize a country or leader by name, but the outside world can see the Chinese official view in those speeches.

Rare criticism of US

Xi rarely directly criticized the U.S. during the annual Two Sessions of the National People's Congress and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference in March.

"The external environment for China's development has changed dramatically, and uncertain and unpredictable factors have increased significantly, especially when Western countries led by the United States have implemented all-round containment and suppression against us, bringing unprecedented severe challenges to our country's development."

Xi's speech came about a month after the U.S. shot down the Chinese high-altitude reconnaissance balloon. Since then, China has often blamed the setbacks in U.S.-China relations on the U.S. for failing to fully implement the consensus reached by Xi and Biden during their meeting in Bali.

On uniting with Russia to resist US

After he officially won his third term as president, Xi traveled to Russia and met with President Vladimir Putin on March 21. Ten years ago, when he first became president of China, he also chose Russia as his first overseas visit.

"(China and Russia) must support each other on issues involving each other's core interests and jointly resist external forces interfering in domestic affairs," he said. "We must strengthen communication and coordination on international affairs within multilateral frameworks, especially within the United Nations, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and the BRICS, practice true multilateralism, and oppose hegemonism and power politics."

Xi's visit to Moscow came more than a year after Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine. The war has left Russia facing sanctions and isolated from the U.S. and its Western allies.

On opposition to decoupling

Xi has made clear his dislike for the "de-risking" strategy implemented by the U.S. and Western countries against China. China believes "de-risking" is another word for "decoupling," which is essentially to contain and isolate China.

In remarks on four occasions — in April at the China-France Entrepreneurs Committee in Beijing, in July at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Heads of State Council meeting, in August at the BRICS Business Forum in Johannesburg, South Africa, and in October at the third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation hosted in Beijing — Xi criticized the U.S. and the West for "decoupling" from China, without naming names.

"China … opposes protectionism, unilateral sanctions, generalization of the concept of national security, 'building walls and barriers' and 'decoupling and breaking links,'" he said in July.

"The Belt and Road Initiative," he said in October, "does not engage in ideological confrontation, geopolitical games, or group political confrontations. It opposes unilateral sanctions, economic coercion, and 'decoupling and breaking links.'"

On US-China relations

Since May, interactions between high-level officials from the two countries have resumed. Chinese Minister of Commerce Wang Wentao visited Washington and met with U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, and China's new ambassador to the U.S., Xie Feng, assumed his new post.

In June, Xi welcomed former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates, saying Gates was the first American friend he had met in Beijing this year.

"The foundation of Sino-U.S. relations lies in the people," Xi said. "We always place our hope in the American people and hope that the friendship between the two peoples will continue."

Days later Xi told U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Beijing that China respects the interests of the U.S. but requires that "the U.S. also respects China and does not harm China's legitimate rights and interests."

"Neither party can shape the other party according to its own wishes, let alone deprive the other party of its legitimate rights to development," he added.

In October, Xi met with the bipartisan delegation of the U.S. Senate led by U.S. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and California Governor Gavin Newsom.

Xi told Schumer that "there are a thousand reasons to improve Sino-U.S. relations, and there is not a single reason to ruin it" and that the common interests of China and the U.S. far outweigh their differences.

He said recovery from the global pandemic, coping with climate change, and solving international and regional issues require coordination and cooperation between the two countries.

Adrianna Zhang contributed to this report.