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BEIJING: Xi Jinping will attend the G20 summit in Indonesia next week and meet his US counterpart Joe Biden, Beijing’s foreign ministry confirmed on Friday, in their first in-person talks since the Chinese president sealed a historic third term as leader last month.

The two met prior to Biden taking office in January 2021 and have spoken by phone a number of times since then, but the Covid-19 pandemic and Xi’s subsequent aversion to foreign travel have prevented them from meeting in person.

Foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a regular press briefing Xi will meet Biden and French counterpart Emmanuel Macron next week in Bali, between November 14 and 17, as well as Senegal’s Macky Sall and Argentina’s Alberto Fernandez.

He will then travel to Thailand from November 17 to 19 to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, Zhao confirmed.

The White House has already said Biden will meet Xi on Monday, when the “leaders will discuss efforts to maintain and deepen lines of communication”, as well as how to “responsibly manage competition and work together where our interests align”.

The US and China have a massive investment and trade relationship but are also challenging each other’s military and diplomatic influence, especially in the Asia-Pacific region.

On Wednesday, Biden said he has already made clear to Xi that he is “looking for competition, not conflict”, adding they will discuss Taiwan, but that the US stance on the island “has not changed at all”.

Video link diplomacy

After almost three years of self-imposed pandemic isolation where international diplomacy was largely conducted via video link, China now aims to shore up its global alliances – especially with developing countries – in the face of increased competition with the US and a world destabilised by the Ukraine war.

A flurry of state visits to China this month has highlighted the importance of maintaining trade and other diplomatic ties – even as China acts more assertively to defend its interests.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz defied fierce domestic criticism to visit Beijing last Friday with a business delegation in tow, vowing to deepen trade cooperation with China alongside raising contentious issues such as the Ukraine war.

Biden faces high expectations at UN climate talks

His visit capped off a string of trips by the leaders of Pakistan, Tanzania and the Vietnamese Communist Party – the most numerous face-to-face meetings Xi has conducted since hosting more than a dozen world leaders at February’s Beijing Olympics.

France’s foreign minister last week said Macron is likely to visit China in the coming months.

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