Xi Jinping and Joe Biden held their first meeting in seven months on Thursday, with both leaders urging a path away from conflict while maintaining their stances on the superpower rivalry.

Biden warned against misunderstandings that could lead to confrontation between Washington and Beijing, while Xi called for a new direction in a relationship beset by “serious difficulties”, according to the White House.

Sino-American ‘conflict’ is avoided by Biden and Jinping’s talks

Relationships between the United States and China plummeted under Donald Trump, Biden’s predecessor, who ignited an all-out trade war and scolded China for its handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Bien que calling for multilateralism and an end to Trump’s “America first” mentality, Biden’s administration has kept trade tariffs in place while maintaining a hard line in other contentious areas of the relationship with Beijing, such as cybersecurity and human rights.

As Biden spoke to reporters, he stressed that the United States wants to avoid situations in the future in which it might “veer into unintended conflict,” a senior US administration official told reporters.

Xi noted the “serious difficulties” caused by recent US policy towards China, which has seen the countries joust over trade, tech, human rights, and the origins of the coronavirus, according to CCTV in Beijing.

In the words of Xi Jinping, “whether China and the United States can properly handle their relations is critical for the future and destiny of the world”.

A call with world leaders on Thursday was a signal from the White House that the diplomatic impasse is unsustainable and potentially dangerous, and that they must intervene.

“We welcome stiff competition, but we don’t want it to degenerate into conflict,” the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told reporters.

We wanted to establish “guardrails” so that the relationship could be “managed responsibly.”

An angry exchange between Secretary of State Antony Blinken and top Chinese officials in Anchorage, Alaska, in March did not go well.

Our interlocutors haven’t been very cooperative, a senior official told reporters.

That’s not how responsible nations act, especially given the global importance of the US-China competition,” said the official, accusing the Chinese of being “mostly unwilling to engage in serious or substantive” talks.

“President Biden understood the importance of engaging President Xi directly” when confronted with the impasse, according to the official.

They “discussed areas where our interests diverge as well as areas where our interests, values and perspectives overlap,” according to a White House press release.

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