US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping held a telephone conversation on Thursday. Pictured here is their virtual meeting on November 15, 2021.
Mandel Ngan | Afp | Getty Images
BEIJING — US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping ended talks on Thursday with plans to arrange a face-to-face meeting for the first time since Biden took office, a senior US official said at a briefing.
However, Xi insisted on strong words on the Taiwan issue, while Biden said the US stance has not changed, according to official reports from the US and Chinese governments.
The readings did not mention plans for a face-to-face meeting, but noted that both sides intended to maintain communication. The US official informed reporters after the call.
“At the end, there was an exchange about … a conversation about a face-to-face meeting between the teams,” the official said, according to a White House transcript. “From my perspective, there was a clear, affirmative agenda that was put forward and agreed to.”
The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The two leaders’ last conversation took place during a tense period between their countries, especially over the recent rhetoric surrounding Taiwan. Beijing considers the democratic self-governed island part of its territory.
“That the call took place is mildly positive and shows that both leaders want to maintain a bottom under deteriorating bilateral ties,” analysts from the Eurasia Group said in a note. “Any future cessation of top-level US-China dialogue would be a negative sign for global stability.”
“Xi has not escalated China’s threats, but he did seem to indirectly warn that Pelosi’s journey could fuel Chinese nationalism,” the report said.
Beijing has warned against “strong and decisive action” as Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi visits Taiwan this summer, the Financial Times has reported, citing sources.
Don’t play with fire
During Thursday’s appeal, the Chinese leader insisted on the implications of support for Taiwan’s independence.
“Resolutely protecting China’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity is the firm will of the more than 1.4 billion Chinese,” Xi said during the call, according to an official English-language release from China’s Foreign Ministry.
“Those who play with fire will die,” Xi was quoted as saying in a section about his comments on China’s stance on Taiwan. “Hopefully the US will be clear on this.”
The US “one China policy” of recent decades has recognized Beijing as China’s only legal government. The US also maintains unofficial relations with Taiwan, with a policy of ensuring the island has the means to defend itself.
While speaking with Xi on Thursday, Biden said US policy towards Taiwan has not changed, according to official reports from China and the White House.
Tensions between the US and China escalated during the Trump administration, which imposed tariffs on billions of dollars worth of goods from China and banned US companies from selling supplies to a number of Chinese tech companies.
The Biden administration has labeled the bilateral relationship as one of strategic competition.
The call — which lasted about 2 hours and 20 minutes — discussed areas of potential cooperation such as climate change and health security, the US official said.
The Chinese readout noted that Xi emphasized the need for both countries to communicate on “coordinating macroeconomic policies”, stabilizing supply chains and protecting the security of global energy and food.
Both leaders, who last spoke in March, also discussed the war between Russia and Ukraine, the US and Chinese governments said. Beijing has refused to call Moscow’s attack on Ukraine an invasion.
The call marked “a step forward in being able to discuss deeply sensitive matters in a workmanlike” [way]said Scott Kennedy, senior advisor and Trustee Chair in Chinese Business and Economics at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“There was never a chance that the US would violate its own one-China policy,” Kennedy said. “Even a visit from Pelosi wouldn’t change that.”
The two countries described the call as “candid” and said it was initiated by the US
The Chinese readout noted that Biden had requested the call. The White House said the call was part of the Biden administration’s “efforts to maintain and deepen lines of communication between the United States and the United States.” [People’s Republic of China] and dealing responsibly with our differences and working together where our interests align.”