The virtual meeting between United States President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday, which went on for more than four hours, did not produce any breakthrough - nor was any expected. But it was an effort to put a floor to the dangerously fraught bilateral ties between the two powers to prevent their plumbing new depths, and is likely to stabilise the relationship for a period of time. By spending time talking and listening to each other - and having a healthy debate on various issues, according to a US official - both leaders set a positive tone for engagement going forward. It certainly was a far cry from the acrimonious meeting of top diplomatic officials from both sides in March in Anchorage, Alaska, where barbs were exchanged.
By all accounts, Mr Biden and Mr Xi had candid and substantive talks, laying out their differences and also areas in which they have mutual interests, as well as their common desire to avoid any unwarranted or accidental conflict. Such clarity means each side can go away with a clear understanding of where the other stands on these issues so as to better manage them.