The 'quiet' diplomacy of Biden and Xi

STORY: BIDEN: "We're going to compete vigorously, but I'm not looking for conflict. I'm looking to manage this competition responsibly (...) And do I think he's willing to compromise on various issues? Yes."

U.S. President Joe Biden and China's President Xi Jinping had their first face-to-face meeting on Monday (November 15) since the American assumed the Oval Office.

Tough talks. But as each country grapples with multiple grave conflicts between them, such as Taiwan, North Korea's nuclear program, and the war in Ukraine - and with relations between the the U.S. and China at their lowest point in decades - U.S. officials are also talking of a new quiet effort by both sides to try to mend those ties.

That's said to have begun about two months ago.

Now they're together at a G20 summit of world powers in Indonesia:

XI: "The China-U.S. relationship is in such a situation that we all care a lot about it, because this is not in the fundamental interest of our two countries and peoples, and it is not what the international community expects from us."

"The world has come to a crossroads. Where to go from here - this is a question."

BIDEN: "We share a responsibility, in my view, to show that China and the United States can manage our differences, prevent competition from becoming anything ever near conflict."

This is the first time they've met in person since the Obama administration, when Biden was vice president, and in public they appeared cordial.

But this was tough. For example, according to a readout in Chinese media, Xi told Biden that Taiwan was "the first red line" that cannot be crossed.

This G20 summit, on the island of Bali, is also the first since the war in Ukraine started. Notably absent is Russia's President Putin, sending his foreign minister instead.

Xi's strengthening relationship with Putin has been another complication between Washington and Beijing. Xi and Putin have said their countries have a "no limits" partnership.

However, Xi's government has also been careful not provide material support to Russia that could trigger Western sanctions.

And a U.S. official has said that China's Premiere Li Keqiang recently spoke at another summit of what they called the, quote, "irresponsibility" of nuclear threats - an apparent reference to Russia's rhetoric in Ukraine.

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said it was clear that Beijing isn't comfortable with Russia's conduct in Ukraine, is surprised by it, and perhaps even "embarrassed."