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The White House says the two leaders discussed Taiwan, cooperation, competition and human rights at a summit in Bali, Indonesia.

US President Joe Biden has stressed that Washington is seeking to avoid conflict or a cold war with Beijing after meeting with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Group of 20 (G20) summit in Bali, Indonesia.

The two presidents met on Monday for the first time in person since Biden took office last year. Separate statements from their offices said they called for cooperation to confront international challenges.

“President Biden underscored that the United States and China must work together to address transnational challenges – such as climate change, global macroeconomic stability including debt relief, health security, and global food security – because that is what the international community expects,” the White House said.

The official Chinese news agency, Xinhua, also cited Xi as saying that the “two sides should work with all countries to bring more hope to world peace, greater confidence in global stability, and stronger impetus to common development”.

The meeting between Biden and Xi follows a spike in tensions between the two countries after top US lawmaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan earlier this year and Biden vowed to defend the self-ruled island – which Beijing claims as its own – if China invades it.

“On Taiwan, [Biden] laid out in detail that our one China policy has not changed, the United States opposes any unilateral changes to the status quo by either side, and the world has an interest in the maintenance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait,” the White House said.

The “one China policy” states that Taiwan is formally part of China. But while the US only maintains “unofficial” relations with Taiwan, it has strong trade and security ties to the island and describes it as a “key partner”.

On Monday, Biden told reporters that Washington does not believe that there is an immediate threat of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan.

“I absolutely believe there need not be a new Cold War,” Biden said. “I’ve met many times with Xi Jinping. And we were candid and clear with one another across the board. And I do not think there’s any imminent attempt on the part of China to invade Taiwan. And I made it clear that our policy in Taiwan has not changed at all.”

Beyond Taiwan, ties between Beijing and Washington have soured over numerous other points of tension in recent years, including trade issues, human rights, claims to the South China Sea and an ongoing US push against growing Chinese influence in the Indo-Pacific.

On Monday, the White House said Biden raised concerns with Xi over China’s “practices in Xinjiang, Tibet, and Hong Kong, and human rights more broadly”.

The US has accused China of carrying out a genocide against its Muslim Uighur minority in the western region of Xinjiang – a charge that Beijing vehemently denies.

Last month, the White House and the Pentagon declared Beijing as Washington’s most serious strategic competitor in reports outlining US defence and foreign policy strategies.

“We’re going to compete vigorously, but I’m not looking for conflict,” Biden told reporters on Monday. “I’m looking to manage this competition responsibly. And I want to make sure that every country abides by the international rules of the road.”

The meeting with Xi lasted for more than three hours, and the Chinese leader was “direct and straightforward”, Biden added.

For his part, Xi said he “looks forward to working with Biden to bring China-US relations back to the track of healthy and stable growth to the benefit of our two countries and the world as a whole”, as reported by Xinhua.

Andy Mok, senior research fellow at the Centre for China and Globalization, a Beijing-based think tank, described Biden’s remarks as “moderate in tone and conciliatory”.

He added, however, that the concern is that US rhetoric may not match policy, specifically around Taiwan – an issue that Xi is “adamant” about.

“But certainly it’s great that both sides are talking and there is going to be more follow-up,” Mok told Al Jazeera.


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