After six hours of meetings in Zurich between Jake Sullivan, White House national security adviser, and Yang Jiechi (Chinese senior foreign policy advisor), the principle agreement was made.
Jen Psaki, White House Press Secretary, said that the two sides are still figuring out what the virtual meeting would look like.
According to a senior administration official who was not allowed to speak publicly about the talks between Sullivan, Yang, and spoke under condition of anonymity, the presidential meeting was suggested after Biden, who had spent a significant amount of time with Xi during their time together as vice presidents, said that he would love to see Xi again.
Xi has not been to China since the coronavirus pandemic. He is unlikely to attend the upcoming Group of 20 summits in Rome or a U.N. climate conference.
According to a White House statement, Sullivan stressed to Yang that open communication was essential. He also raised concerns about China’s recent military provocations towards Taiwan and human rights violations against ethnic minorities, as well as Beijing's attempts to suppress pro-democracy advocates from Hong Kong.
Sullivan stated that the United States would continue to invest in its own national strength, but it wanted better engagement at a higher level "to ensure responsible competion," the statement said.
U.S. officials expressed disappointment that interactions with Chinese high-ranking counterparts, including Yang in the early days of Biden’s presidency, were less than constructive. According to an administration official, Wednesday's talks were described as constructive, respectful and possibly the most in-depth among the sides since Biden assumed office in January.
China's official Xinhua News Agency echoed this description, stating that the sides had a candid exchange of views. Yang was quoted as saying that China attaches importance the positive remarks made by U.S. President Joe Biden regarding China-U.S. relations, and that China has observed that the U.S. side stated it... isn't seeking a new Cold War.
Yang said that China does not want to be defined as "competitive" in their relationship and asked the U.S. stop using Taiwan, Hong Kong, human right and other issues to interfere with what China calls its internal affairs.
According to the White House, the meeting was to follow up on the call last month between Biden and Xi where Biden stressed that they must set clear parameters for their competition.
On Wednesday, U.S. Secretary Antony Blinken reiterated his concerns about Beijing's "provocative" actions. China sent 56 fighter jets towards Taiwan Monday, a record.
Blinken was in Paris to meet with French officials and said that Beijing should cease all military, diplomatic, and economic pressures and coercion directed against Taiwan.
Biden pledged to press Beijing about its human rights record at the beginning of his presidency. Biden's administration reiterated the U.S. position that China's repressions of Uyghur Muslims in China's northwest Xinjiang area and other minorities was "genocide," as stated in late Trump administration.
The United States, along with Canada, the United Kingdom, and the European Union, placed sanctions on top communist party officials in March for their role in the detention and abuse of Uyghurs. Biden succeeded in urging fellow leaders to criticize China's forced labor practices in their joint statement at the Group of Seven summit.
Republican legislators in the U.S. raised concerns about the administration's ability to ease pressure on human rights while it seeks cooperation from Beijing in its global efforts on climate change and to stop North Korea's nuclear programme.
Last week, the White House stated that it had not taken a position regarding the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act. It was approved by the U.S. Senate on July 7.
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, was the sponsor of the legislation and wrote in Washington Examiner Wednesday that the "Biden administration is choosing not to ignore the Chinese Communist Party’s egregious violations of human rights to strike a climate deal."
Psaki responded to the criticism. She stated that Biden, contrary to President Donald Trump, had "speak out against human rights violations, raised his concerns directly with President Xi about human rights violations, and we have done so at every level."
This week, the U.S. indicated that it will continue to impose tariffs against China as a matter of course during the Trump administration.
In a speech this week in Washington, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai said that she would engage her Chinese counterparts in order to discuss Beijing's failures to fulfill commitments in the first phase U.S.-China bilateral trade agreement. The agreement was signed in January 2020. Biden has criticised Beijing's "coercive" trade tactics, including the use of forced labor. This has created an unfair playing field.
Tai stated that "We will use all the tools we have and create new tools as necessary to defend American economic interests against harmful policies and practices."