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u.s.-china relations

Biden and Xi discuss cooperation, 'straightforward competition' during virtual meeting

President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping met virtually on Monday night, their talk coming at a critical time for both countries.

The video conference lasted nearly four hours, and was their most significant discussion since Biden took office in January. Reporters were briefly allowed in the White House's Roosevelt Room at the start of the meeting, when Biden told Xi that it "seems to be 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."

The pair, he continued, need to promote "just simple, straightforward competition. It seems to me we need to establish a common sense guardrail, to be clear and honest where we disagree and work together where our interests intersect, especially on vital global issues like climate change." 

Biden went on to raise concerns about human rights abuses against the Uyghur minority, the pressure Beijing is putting on Taiwan, and trade issues, a senior administration official in the room told CNN. There was "a healthy debate," the person added. Chinese state media reports that Xi told Biden the world is big enough for both countries to boost their development. "Humanity lives in a global village and we face multiple challenges together," Xi said. "China and the U.S. need to increase communication and cooperation."

The Biden administration official told CNN the point of this meeting — which ran longer than expected — wasn't to ease tensions between the U.S. and China, but "to make sure the competition is reasonably managed, that we have ways to do that. The president's been quite clear he's going to engage in that stiff competition."