Chinese Communist Party leader President Xi Jinping called President Joe Biden his “old friend” during a virtual summit meeting on Monday. Biden and the White House have both previously rejected the idea that the two world leaders are friends.
“Good to see you, Mr. President, and your colleagues,” Xi said through an interpreter at the beginning of the meeting. “It’s the first time for us to meet virtually. Although it’s not as good as a face-to-face meeting, I’m very happy to see my old friend.”
Xi went on to say that the United States and China need to “increase communication and cooperation” in order to “advance the noble cause of world peace and development,” which he called the “joint mission of Chinese and American leaders.”
“A sound and steady China-U.S. relationship is required for advancing our two countries’ respective development and for safeguarding a peaceful and stable international environment, including finding effective responses to global challenges such as climate change, which you referenced, and the COVID pandemic,” Xi said.
During Biden’s opening remarks, the president called for the two nations to work together on “vital global issues like climate change.”
Biden praised the relationship he has with Xi, saying that they always communicate “honestly and candidly,” adding that they “never walk away wondering what the other man is thinking.”
The president concluded his opening remarks by thanking Xi for his “congratulatory call when I won the election.” “It was very gracious of you,” Biden said.
Biden has repeatedly claimed that he traveled thousands of miles with Xi when he was vice president under Barack Obama, but rejected the notion that the two are “old friends” during a press conference earlier this year.
“Let’s get something straight: we know each other well, we’re not old friends,” Biden said in June, according to Fox News. “It’s just pure business.”
Ahead of the virtual meeting, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki doubled-down on the assertion, telling reporters that Biden “still does not consider him an old friend.”
Prior to the meeting, Republicans issued a statement accusing the Biden administration of not holding China accountable for egregious human rights violations in the interest of advancing its climate agenda.
“No amount of empty words and broken promises will erase Joe Biden’s long history of ignoring the Chinese Communist Party’s imminent threat, while putting America last,” the Republican National Committee said in a statement.
“As he turns a blind eye to human rights atrocities to pursue his political agenda, Biden has allowed China to threaten American security and our allies’ sovereignty, while undermining the advancement of freedom across the globe,” the statement continued. “In just a few short months, Biden has weakened our standing in the world and has left our allies in Taiwan, Afghanistan, and elsewhere to fend for themselves against an increasing Chinese Communist Party threat to the region and the world.”