President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping agreed to schedule their first in-person summit Thursday during a sometimes tense phone call, where Xi warned the United States not to play with fire in Taiwan.
Although this was their fifth phone or video call since Biden took office a year and a half ago, the summit would be their first face-to-face meeting as leaders. No detail was given about the timing or location.
Biden and Xi “discussed the value of face-to-face meetings and agreed to follow up on their teams to find a mutually agreeable time,” a US official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Both sides described the conversation, which lasted two hours and 17 minutes, as a brisk discussion about the many disputes between the two largest economic powers in the world.
The Chinese state-run Xinhua agency said Xi has spoken harshly about US policy toward Taiwan, a democratic island with close ties to the United States, but considers China part of its territory.
“Those who play with fire will eventually burn themselves,” Xi told Biden, repeating the language he used when they spoke last November. “I hope the American side fully understands that.”
Tensions around Taiwan are steadily escalating for fear that Xi could eventually order an invasion to impose Beijing’s rule.
In the latest flashpoint, Chinese authorities are outraged by unconfirmed plans by Biden ally and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, to visit the island.
Although US officials regularly visit Taiwan, which is separated from mainland China by a narrow strip of water, Pelosi considers a trip to Pelosi a major provocation. She is second in line to the US presidency and is allowed to travel with military transport given her position.
Washington will “bear the consequences” if the trip goes ahead, China warned on Wednesday.
During the phone call, Xi told Biden that “the stance of the Chinese government and the people on the Taiwan issue is consistent”.
“It is the firm will of the more than 1.4 billion Chinese people to firmly protect China’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he said.
In response, Biden reassured Xi that US policy, known as “strategic ambiguity,” was unchanged — essentially in favor of the status quo in Taiwan, with Washington recognizing Chinese sovereignty but resisting any enforcement, allowing the Taiwanese could maintain their own rule.
On Taiwan, President Biden underlined that United States policies have not changed and the United States strongly opposes unilateral attempts to change the status quo or undermine peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. the White House said in a statement.
No movement on rates
Biden is proud of a close relationship with Xi that dates back years, but it is becoming difficult to mask the growing mistrust between the two countries.
US officials said Biden touched on a range of sensitive issues, including China’s “genocide and forced labor practices” and its increasingly aggressive military stance in Asia.
The White House described Biden’s outreach as part of “efforts to maintain and deepen lines of communication” and to “responsibly deal with our differences and work together where our interests align.”
According to the White House, Biden’s main hope is to establish “guardrails” for the two superpowers.
This is intended to ensure that, while they strongly disagree on democracy, and are increasingly rivals on the geopolitical stage, they can avoid open conflict.
However, where to place the guardrails is a challenge amid so many unresolved disputes, including a simmering trade war that started under Donald Trump’s presidency.
A big question that remains completely unresolved is the trade war that began under Donald Trump, with 25 percent tariffs on billions of dollars worth of Chinese products.
Despite speculation that Biden could soon ease some of those rates to try to lower roaring inflation in the US economy, there was no movement on the matter during his talk with Xi.
“As for tariffs, President Biden explained to President Xi… his main concerns about China’s unfair practices harming American workers and harming American families, but he did not talk about possible steps he could take,” the US official told reporters. reporters.
“It would be wrong to believe that a decision on any next steps was somehow waiting for this conversation.”
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.)