Xi Jinping Says China 'Ready to Work' With U.S. Ahead of Joe Biden Meeting

China is ready to work with the United States to resolve regional issues and global challenges, Xi Jinping has said in a letter ahead of only his third conversation with President Joe Biden next week.

The Chinese leader's remarks were presented by Ambassador Qin Gang, the country's top envoy to the U.S., at a gala hosted by the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday.

Bilateral relations between the world's two largest economies "are at a critical historical juncture," Xi said, adding: "Both countries will gain from cooperation and lose from confrontation."

China's president, who has not left the country in nearly two years because of the COVID-19 pandemic, called cooperation between the two powers "the only right choice."

"China stands ready to work with the United States to enhance exchanges and cooperation across the board, jointly address regional and international issues as well as global challenges and, in the meantime, properly manage differences," according to a readout released by the Chinese Embassy.

According to reports by Bloomberg and Reuters, officials in Washington and Beijing are still discussing the exact date of the Biden-Xi virtual summit, which is set to take place next week. It will be only the third time the two leaders have spoken this year, following phone calls in February and September.

Below the leadership level, there also have been precious few meetings between American and Chinese officials this year, despite what is considered an urgent need for regular contact in order to avoid miscommunication and, crucially, miscalculation at a time of heightened tensions.

Lower-level engagement has taken place virtually between the Pentagon and the Chinese military, but only two in-person talks have been publicized—the March meeting in Anchorage, Alaska and October's talks in Zurich between national security adviser Jake Sullivan and China's foreign affairs chief Yang Jiechi.

The U.S.-China rivalry continues in the realms of technology and trade as well as in the international arena, but frequent deployments by both militaries into the international waters and airspace around China are also increasing the probability of an accident.

Speaking at COP26 in Scotland last week, Biden acknowledged risks in the relationship, but he emphasized U.S.-China ties were about "competition, not conflict." The president said he would ensure there was "no misunderstanding" between him and China's Xi.

Biden called Xi's decision to skip the G20 meeting in Rome and the U.N. climate change summit in Glasgow a "big mistake." Analysts had predicted a much needed in-person Biden-Xi meeting was possible on the sidelines.

China's Xi Jinping to Work with Biden
Chinese President Xi Jinping attends the closing session of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People on May 28, 2020, in Beijing, China. Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

Despite ongoing concerns about an expanding Chinese nuclear arsenal and disagreements with Beijing over relations with Taiwan, the Biden administration has stressed the pressing need to cooperate with China on cutting carbon emissions. Chinese officials, meanwhile, have hinted that a working relationship to address climate change would be conditioned upon the U.S. acting first to mend strained bilateral ties.

At an event in September, Chinese Ambassador Qin said: "The United States should not expect China's cooperation in areas where only the U.S. has demand and interests, while neglecting or even undermining China's interests at the same time, in particular on these core issues concerning China's sovereignty and territorial integrity."

While Biden's first year in the White House may have been somewhat frustrated by a lack of substantive engagement with China, the resumption of dialogue and reopening of communications channels already marked an improvement of relations and a change from the multi-domain confrontation that defined the final year of the Trump administration.

According to Bloomberg, next week's virtual talks between the presidents will not address whether to reopen the American consulate in Chengdu and the Chinese consulate in Houston, both of which were shuttered in July 2020 during a diplomatic spat. The issue is likely on a list of demands with which Beijing is expecting U.S. compliance.