US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping held the fifth conversation of their presidencies on Thursday, speaking for more than two hours as they charted the future of their complicated relationship at a time of rising economic tensions. and geopolitics.
The call began at 8:33 a.m. EDT and ended at 10:50 a.m. EDT, according to the White House. It came as Biden seeks to find new ways to work with the rising global power, as well as strategies to contain China’s influence around the world. Differing perspectives on global health, economic policy and human rights have long strained the relationship, with China’s refusal to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine adding further tension.
“The two heads of state had in-depth communication and exchanges on China-US relations and issues of mutual concern,” China Central Television reported on its website.
The latest pressure point has been a possible visit by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan, the island that is governed democratically and receives informal defensive support from the US, but which China considers part of its territory. . Beijing has said it would view such a trip as a provocation, a threat that US officials are taking more seriously in light of Russia’s incursion into Ukraine.
“If the United States insists on going its own way and challenging China’s results, it will surely be met with forceful responses,” Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, told reporters earlier this week. “All subsequent consequences will be borne by the United States”
Pelosi would be the highest-ranking American elected official to travel to Taiwan since Republican Newt Gingrich visited the island in 1997 when he was Speaker of the House. Biden told reporters last week that US military officials believed it was “not a good idea” for the speaker to visit the island at this time.
John Kirby, a US national security spokesman, said Wednesday that it was important for Biden and Xi to communicate regularly.
“The president wants to make sure that the lines of communication with President Xi remain open because it is necessary,” Kirby told reporters at a White House briefing. “There are issues where we can cooperate with China and there are issues where there is obviously friction and tension.”
Biden and Xi last spoke in March, shortly after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“This is one of the most important bilateral relationships in the world today, with ramifications far beyond the two individual countries,” Kirby said.
The conversation comes as Biden has moved to change the US’s reliance on Chinese manufacturing, including the Senate’s approval on Wednesday of legislation to encourage semiconductor companies to build more high-tech plants in the US. low-income countries as an alternative to China’s “Belt and Road Initiative,” which aims to boost China’s trade with other global markets.
Kirby listed a number of areas of friction between the US and China that he said would be part of the conversation, including “tensions over Taiwan, tensions over… China’s aggressive behavior in the Indo-Pacific outside of Taiwan, tensions over in the economic relationship” and on China’s reaction to Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Biden, who has kept Trump-era tariffs on many Chinese-made goods to maintain his influence over Beijing, is weighing whether to ease at least some of them in a move to lessen the impact of skyrocketing inflation on American households.
US officials have also criticized China’s “zero-COVID” policy of mass testing and lockdowns in an effort to contain the spread of COVID-19 on its soil, calling it misguided and concerned it will further slow global economic growth.
Other points of tension include China’s treatment of Muslim Uyghurs, which the US has declared a genocide, its militarization in the South China Sea, and the global campaign of economic and political espionage.