Xi’s choice of words to describe the relationship also contradicted what Psaki had said earlier the same day
Xi’s choice of words to describe his relationship with Biden contradicted the way both the president and White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki have characterized their relationship. Biden has touted his rapport with Xi as an advantage during increasingly fraught diplomatic dealings between the US and China, even as he has disputed the idea they are friends.
“It’s the first time for us to meet virtually. Although it’s not as good as a face-to-face meeting, I’m very happy to see my old friend,” Xi said through a translator at the start of the meeting.
Biden has claimed on multiple occasions to have “traveled 17,000 miles” with Xi during his time as vice president in the Obama administration. But the president bristled during a June press conference when asked if Biden would call Xi “old friend to old friend” to demand China’s cooperation with efforts to investigate the origins of COVID-19.
“Let’s get something straight: we know each other well, we’re not old friends,” Biden said. “It’s just pure business.”
The White House set low expectations for the meeting, and no major announcements or even a joint statement were delivered. Still, White House officials said the two leaders had a substantive exchange.
Both Biden and Xi spoke of clear communication as the key to long-term diplomatic relations.
Republicans have accused the Biden administration of failing to hold Beijing accountable on human rights for the sake of pursuing its climate agenda.
“As he turns a blind eye to human rights atrocities to pursue his political agenda, Biden has allowed China to threaten American security and our allies’ sovereignty while undermining the advancement of freedom across the globe,” the Republican National Committee said in a statement shortly before the start of the leaders’ meeting.