The White House confirmed Monday that President Joe Biden did not mention the COVID-19 pandemic or its Chinese origin during his first face-to-face meeting with Chinese President Xi Jingping in five years.
The three-hour private meeting took place during the G-20 Summit in Indonesia. The president spoke to his Chinese counterpart on the urgency for their countries to work together on climate change, debt relief, food security, and health security.
But not COVID. A study by Senate Republicans concluded last month that a Chinese lab leak was the most likely origin for the virus. This is a similar conclusion reached by a 2021 House investigation.
BREAKING: Joe Biden and Xi Jinping meet ahead of the G-20 summit in Bali, the first in-person talks between the leaders of the US and China since before the Covid-19 pandemic https://t.co/iHKU2XijYT pic.twitter.com/WcIc08rqSF
— Bloomberg (@business) November 14, 2022
The World Health Organization, on the other hand, believes the most likely origin was the virus naturally moving from animals to humans.
And after previous misstatements that cast the White House policy towards Taiwan in doubt, Biden reconfirmed the U.S. commitment to the “One China” policy.
This is the acknowledgment that the island democracy is part of mainland China.
Biden recalled that he spent much time with Xi when they were vice presidents but had not seen him in person in years. The last time the two met in person was at the 2017 World Economic Forum in Davos.
The reason, of course, is the COVID-19 pandemic that originated in Wuhan. Xi was only on his second international trip since the pandemic began, and parts of China still maintain strict lockdowns.
The president pointed to the obvious competition between the nations but said that “the United States stands ready to…work with you — if that’s what you desire.”
Xi declared that humanity has reached a “crossroads” and faces “unprecedented challenges.” He mentioned the five-decade relationship between China and the U.S. and said both nations have learned lessons from their interactions.
As COVID was off the table, so apparently was Taiwan in Xi’s opening remarks. The White House reported afterwards that Biden raised “objections” over “coercive and increasingly aggressive actions” towards the island democracy.
The Chinese president addressed Biden by saying that he wants to put relations between the superpowers “back to the track of healthy and stable growth” for the benefit of both.