“The trajectory of the relationship is nothing but positive, and it’s overwhelmingly in the mutual interest of both our countries,” Biden said in 2011 when, as vice president, he visited Beijing to build a personal relationship with China’s then leader-in-waiting.
Seated next to Xi in a Beijing hotel, Biden told a room of Chinese and American business leaders about his “great optimism about the next 30 years” for bilateral relations and praised Xi for being “straightforward.”
“Only friends and equals can serve each other by being straightforward and honest with them,” he said.
On Monday, the two leaders are set to meet each other for another honest exchange in Bali, Indonesia, on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit. But the mood in the room is unlikely to be as balmy as the surrounding location.
The positivity and optimism of a decade ago has been replaced by mutual suspicion and hostility. When Biden returned to the White House as President, he was handed a US-China relationship in its worst shape in decades, with tensions flaring across trade, technology, geopolitics and ideology.
The upcoming meeting – the first in-person encounter between Biden and Xi since the US President took office – comes at a crucial time for both leaders. Having further consolidated his power at last month’s Communist Party Congress, Xi is heading into the meeting as the strongest Chinese leader since Mao Zedong.
Biden, meanwhile, arrived in Asia following a better-than-expected performance by his party in the US midterm elections – with the Democrats projected to keep the Senate in a major victory. Asked Sunday whether the results allowed him to go into Monday’s face-to-face with a stronger hand, Biden voiced confidence. “I know I’m coming in stronger,” he told reporters.