Biden and Xi arrived in San Francisco on Tuesday, where they were set to meet on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.
Leaders from the 21-country group - and hundreds of CEOs in San Francisco to court them - meet amid Chinese economic weakness, Beijing's territorial feuds with neighbors, and a Middle East conflict that is dividing the United States from allies.
Efforts to carefully choreograph Xi's visit may be upended in San Francisco despite efforts to drive homeless people from the streets. The route from the airport to the conference site was lined with demonstrators for and against China's ruling Communist Party, an unusual sight for Xi, who last visited the United States in 2017.
Biden has sought direct diplomacy with Xi, betting that a personal relationship he has cultivated for a dozen years with the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao Zedong might salvage ties that are increasingly turning hostile.
Chong Ja Ian, a political science professor at the National University of Singapore, said the two sides are engaged in what Mao referred to during the Chinese civil war as "talk and fight, fight and talk".
"That is, to talk while building up forces," Chong said.