Biden says it was a 'big mistake' for China's president not to go to the Glasgow summit

Speaking to the press at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, President Biden said it was a “big mistake” for Chinese President Xi Jinping not to attend the summit.

Video Transcript

- You noted your disappointment with Chinese actions on climate in Rome and also the lack of willingness for Chinese President Xi Jinping to show up at either the G20 or COP26. But I wanted to ask more broadly, when you assess where things stand right now in US-China relationships after your first 10 months in office, your diplomats have had difficulty engaging in a substantive manner with some of their counterparts, you have a Chinese military that has tested a hypersonic missile this summer and is building its nuclear capability, what is your general assessment of where things stand? And are you concerned that the potential for armed conflict has grown over the course of your first 10 months in office?

JOE BIDEN: Well, let me start off by addressing the first part of, if not the question, of the statement. And that is that I indicated that China and Russia not showing up, and Saudi Arabia, as a problem. We showed up. We showed up. And by showing up, we've had a profound impact on the way I think the rest of the world is looking at the United States and its leadership role. I think it's been a big mistake, quite frankly, for China, with respect to China not showing up, the rest of the world is going to look to China and say, what value added have they provided? And they've lost an ability to influence people around the world and all the people here at COP. The same way I would argue with regard to Russia.

With regard to the more profound question about am I worried about an armed conflict or some that accidentally occurring with China. No, I'm not but I have had as I've said before, and I think we've talked about this or I may be mistaken, that I think, as I've said, I look at China and I've had hours of conversations with Xi Jinping, both in person when I was vice president, and since I've been president at least five or six hours worth of conversations on the telephone, and I am going to be having a virtual summit with him. I've made it clear. This does this is competition. It does not have to be conflict. There is no reason there need be conflict.

But I've also indicated to him, and I'm not reluctant to say it publicly, that we expect them to play by the rules of the road. We're not going to change our attitude to our Constitution international airspace, international sea lanes, et cetera. We also made it clear that we have to work on dealing with things like cybersecurity and a whole range of other issues. But I'm not looking for, I don't anticipate there will be a need for-- there be physical conflict. But you know, as you've heard me say this before, my dad had an expression, he said, the only conflict worse than one that's intended is one that's unintended. One that's unintended. And so in my meetings with him virtually coming up when we have to set the exact date yet, I want to make sure there's no misunderstanding. It's competition, not conflict, and so there's no unintended.