Biden-Xi summit: What are the key issues?

·2-min read
At a virtual summit with China's Xi Jinping, Biden wants to avoid any "misunderstanding" in bilateral ties (AFP/NICOLAS ASFOURI, Nicholas Kamm)

From Taiwan to Covid and the South China Sea, here are some of the flashpoint issues that US President Joe Biden and China's Xi Jinping may discuss during their virtual summit.

The summit is set to take place at 8:45 am Tuesday Beijing time, which is 7:45 pm Monday in Washington.

- Taiwan -

Relations between Beijing and Washington have taken a nosedive over self-ruled Taiwan in recent months.

China has ramped up military activities near the island, with a record number of planes intruding into its air defence zone in October.

Beijing claims Taiwan as its territory and has vowed to retake it by force if necessary.

Washington maintains a policy of "strategic ambiguity" about what it would do if the Chinese military sought to seize control of the island -- though Biden has said the United States is ready to defend it from any invasion.

- Regional security -

China also claims almost all of the resource-rich South China Sea, through which trillions of dollars in shipping trade pass annually, rejecting competing claims from Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam.

Against that backdrop, the United States, Britain and Australia announced in September that they had formed a new alliance -- AUKUS -- under which Australia will acquire nuclear-powered submarines using US technology.

Although delivery is years away and China was not specifically named, the announcement angered Beijing and separately sparked a furious row with France which saw its deal to sell Australia conventional submarines torn up.

- Trade -

Despite fundamental policy disagreements with his predecessor in most other areas, Biden has stopped short of lifting punitive tariffs imposed by Donald Trump on a range of Chinese imports.

Several US conglomerates have called on the White House to include trade tariffs in talks with Beijing, in a bid to ease their own production costs in China.

- Technology -

The Trump administration put Chinese tech companies suspected of threatening national security on a blacklist -- meaning that without authorisation, US firms couldn't buy those companies' products or sell to them.

The Biden administration added to the list of companies in which Americans are barred from investing, and last month revoked China Telecom's licence to operate in the United States.

US regulators have previously taken action against other Chinese firms, notably private telecoms giant Huawei.

- Sanctions -

The United States has declared that actions against the Uyghur minority in China's western region of Xinjiang amount to genocide, an assertion rejected by Beijing.

Beijing wants the United States to lift sanctions placed on Chinese officials over Xinjiang, as well as over Hong Kong. Beijing has sanctioned US officials in return.

- Covid-19 -

Biden accused Beijing in August of withholding "critical information" on the origins of Covid-19.

Beijing has repeatedly lashed out against criticism of its handling of the pandemic, branding a US intelligence review published in October into the origins of the virus "political and false".

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