WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden does not plan to formally meet his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in India, two administration officials told NBC News on Thursday, dashing hopes of a face-to-face encounter that could help to ease Sino-U.S. tensions.
It’s unclear whether Xi will even attend the September gathering in New Delhi, one of the officials said.
Instead of India, the two leaders may meet around the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, or APEC, conference in San Francisco in November, though no official sit-down has been nailed down yet, the officials said.
Beijing has not said one way or the other.
Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, who visited China this week, told NBC News' Andrea Mitchell that a Biden-Xi meeting at APEC promised to be constructive.
“I have no doubt if he were to come it would be productive,” she said Thursday.
If Xi does go to the G20, it’s possible that the two leaders will exchange pleasantries or cordially greet each other, but that is the most interaction U.S. officials would expect at this point.
Earlier this year, the White House had eyed the G20 — made up of most of the world's largest economies, including China and the U.S. — as a possibility for a follow-up to Biden and Xi’s meeting in Bali, Indonesia, last year. But relations worsened after a “spy balloon” was spotted allegedly gathering information by flying over sensitive U.S. military sites in February, causing Secretary of State Antony Blinken to cancel his trip to Beijing, although he did go in June.
A string of U.S. officials, including Raimondo, have traveled to China to get the relationship back on track.
Biden has indicated that he expects to meet with Xi in person at some point before the end of the year, with senior administration officials pointing to a global summit as the most likely venue for that, though it could also become a standalone event.
The White House declined to comment.
Beijing reacted angrily after the G7 summit in Hiroshima, Japan, earlier this year, during which leaders pledged to cooperate with China economically but be tougher in areas including “economic coercion,” human rights, Taiwan, Tibet, Hong Kong and Beijing’s growing assertiveness in the South China Sea.