From his seat in a cavernous room inside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Xi was just as friendly. "Although it's not as good as a face-to-face meeting," Xi said as the summit got underway, "I'm very happy to see my old friend."
It was an auspicious start to some of the most critical talks of Biden's presidency, given the deteriorating ties between Washington and Beijing and the reality, acknowledged by administration officials, that managing the US relationship with China will amount to Biden's most critical international objective.
The affable greetings eventually turned more serious as Biden raised concerns about human rights, Chinese aggression toward Taiwan and trade issues. Throughout, the leaders engaged in a "healthy debate," according to a senior administration official present for the discussions.