World’s Two Largest Economic Powers Discuss “Managing Competition Responsibly”

World’s Two Largest Economic Powers Discuss “Managing Competition Responsibly”


In the evening of November 15th, Washington time, the President of the United States, Joseph Biden, and the President of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping, met virtually over a video call initiated by President Biden in order to discuss the “complex nature of relations between our two countries and the importance of managing competition responsibly” (Biden).

Following the September 2021 phone call, the current meeting represents the first video-call between the two Presidents and the third telephonecall since the US President took office. While a face-to-face meeting between the two leaders is yet to take place, one may affirm the recent contact – which lasted for about 3.5 hours – represents a significant step in managing the relations between the two countries, potentially laying down the path for a future meeting in person.

Despite not having issued a joint statement at the end of the meeting, the two parties have reportedly discussed “areas where our interests align, and areas where our interests, values, and perspectives diverge” (Biden) and shouldering “international responsibilities and work together to advance the noble cause of world peace and development” (Xi).

Significantly, the leaders of the world’s two largest economies issued independent official statements commonly recalling words such as candid” and „straightforward” and stressed the common will for maintaining dialogue. As theChinese President declared himself „very happy to see my old friend” (in reference to US President Biden), the US President manifested his „hope (...) to do it face to face”, hinting at a possible future Summit between the two leaders.

One may argue that the implications of the two Presidents’ Summit could be better understood while individually analysed, based on each leader’s references and narrative, particularly the similar points of view expressed.

Responsible Competition. The two Presidents agreed that „the competition between our countries does not veer into conflict, whether intended or unintended” (Biden), stressing the need to „safeguarding a peaceful and stable international environment, including finding effective responses to global challenges such as climate change” (Xi). On the same note, the two leaders agreed „to be clear and honest where we disagree”, yet „work together where our interest intersect”, calling for „commonsense guardrails” (Biden) and „to build consensus, take active steps, and move China-U.S. relations forward in a positive direction. Doing so would advance the interests of our two peoples and meet the expectation of the international community.” (Xi)

Certainly, the rhetoric of a responsibly managed competition suggests a constructive approach shared by the two Presidents, offering a positive outlook of the bilateral relation along with the much welcomed prospects for the global community.

Managing Strategic Risks. While presenting „China's development path and strategic intentions”, the Chinese President reiterated that „China has no intention to sell its own development path around the world” and stated that „dividing the world into different camps or rival groups will only make the world suffer”. On the same note, the US President also „underscored the importance of managing strategic risks” so that „competition does not veer into conflict and to keep lines of communication open”. Indeed, according to Biden’s national security councillor, Jake Sullivan, the two leaders’ discussion is likely to generate positive results in the near future, such as – likely informal – discussions regarding „strategic stability”, a term often used in reference to military capabilities and arms control.

Trade. The discussion on the „importance of taking measures to address global energy supplies” was not only welcomed, but certainly expected by both parties, given the Phase I Economic and Trade Agreement signed by US and China on January 2020 is set to expire on December 31, 2021. While the results of the discussion have not been yet presented, one may expect further negotiations to be held in this direction before the end of the year.

Certainly, the Summit of the two major leaders has positively contributed to the mutual understanding between world’s two largest economic powers, stressing the advantages – and necessity, one may say – of constructive bilateral dialogue.

In fact, positive and tangible results of the Summit have been presented by media soon after the two world leaders’ meeting. One of the consensus points between the two Presidents seems to have been the agreement to ease restrictions on journalists, clearly a positive development that will facilitate the mutual understanding between the two countries.

Based on the official reports of the recent interaction between the two leaders, one may affirm the virtual Summit is a significant and so far unique opportunity for both leaders to speak to each other openly and thus positively contribute to the mutual understanding between their respective countries. While some of the results will only be visible in the near future, it is not improbable that – once the pandemic situation improves – a Summit will take place as a further step into responsibly managing the competition between the two countries. One may affirm that fruitful results of the dialogue between the two largest economies would also yield positive outcomes for Asia-Pacific and other countries as well, reassuring genunine multilateral and multifaceted cooperation remains the mainstay of the global architecture.



The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the official policy, position or view of IRSEA.