Presidents Joe Biden and Xi Jinping opened their high-stakes summit in Bali with a handshake on Monday, and with both men stressing the need to manage differences and avoid conflict.
"The world has come to a crossroads," Xi said vowing a "candid" discussion of issues that have riven relations between the world's two leading powers.
"The world expects that China and the United States will properly handle the relationship," he said.
BREAKING: Joe Biden and Xi Jinping meet ahead of the G-20 summit in Bali, the first in-person talks between the leaders of the US and China since before the Covid-19 pandemic https://t.co/iHKU2XijYT pic.twitter.com/WcIc08rqSF
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For his part, Biden greeted Xi with a smile that belied the growing competition between the nation that has defined the last century and a rival that seeks to define the next one.
Biden said he wanted the United States and China to manage our differences, prevent competition from becoming conflict.
The two, holding their first in-person talks since Biden became president, met on the Indonesian island of Bali ahead of a Group of 20 (G20) summit on Tuesday that is set to be fraught with tension over Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
"It's just great to see you," Biden told Xi as he put an arm around him, adding in remarks delivered in front of reporters that he was committed to keeping lines of communication open on a personal and government level.
He mentioned climate change and food insecurity as problems the world expected their two countries to address.
Responding to Biden, Xi said the relationship between their two countries was not meeting global expectations.
"So we need to chart the right course for the China-US relationship. We need to find the right direction for the bilateral relationship going forward and elevate the relationship," Xi said.
"The world expects that China and the United States will properly handle the relationship," he said, adding he looked forward to working with Biden to bring the relationship back on the right track.
Neither leader wore a mask to ward off Covid though members of their delegations did.
Their main topics of discussion are expected to be Taiwan, Ukraine and North Korea's nuclear ambitions, issues that will also loom over the G20 that is being held without Russian President Vladimir Putin in attendance.
On Sunday, Biden told Asian leaders in Cambodia that US communication lines with China would stay open to prevent conflict, with tough talks almost certain in the days ahead.
Relations have been roiled in recent years by growing tensions over issues ranging from Hong Kong and Taiwan to the South China Sea, trade practices and US restrictions on Chinese technology.
But US officials said there have been quiet efforts by both Beijing and Washington over the past two months to repair ties.
US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told reporters in Bali earlier that the meeting was "intended to stabilise the relationship between the United States and China, and to create a more certain atmosphere for US businesses".
She said that Biden had been clear with China about national security concerns regarding restrictions on sensitive US technologies and had raised concern about the reliability of Chine supply chains for commodities like minerals.