Biden and Xi could meet in person, US official says


FILE – This combination image shows U.S. President Joe Biden in Washington, Nov. 6, 2021, and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Brasília, Brazil, Nov. 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, Eraldo Peres, File)


President Joe Biden and China’s Xi Jinping plan to meet in person, a senior administration official said after the leaders spent more than two hours Thursday discussing the future of their complicated relationship, the tension at About Taiwan again appearing as a flashpoint.

Biden made the phone call from the Oval Office, where he was joined by senior aides including Secretary of State Antony Blinken. The manager declined to be identified to speak about the private conversation.

When Biden was vice president, he spent long hours with Xi in the United States and China, an experience he often recalls when talking about the two countries’ opportunities for conflict and cooperation. However, they haven’t met in person since Biden became president last year.

Xi has only left mainland China once, for Hong Kong, since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, he was officially invited to Indonesia in November for the upcoming G20 summit of major world economies, making the conference a potential venue for a meeting with Biden.

The latest pressure on Taiwan is a potential visit by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to the island, which has governed itself for decades but which China claims is its territory.

Xi underscored the claims during his call with Biden, according to China’s Foreign Ministry.

“Those who play with fire will perish by it,” the ministry said. “We hope that the United States will be lucid about this.”

The White House released its own description of the Taiwan conversation, saying Biden “emphasized that United States policy has not changed and that the United States strongly opposes unilateral efforts to change the status quo or to undermine peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.”

The purpose of the call, which began at 8:33 a.m. EDT and ended at 10:50 a.m. EDT, was to “responsibly manage our differences and work together where our interests align,” said said the White House.

As usual, China left no doubt that it blamed the United States for the deterioration in relations between the two countries.

“President Xi pointed out that to approach and define China-US relations in terms of strategic competition and see China as the main rival and the most serious long-term challenge would be to misunderstand China-US relations and interpret China’s development, and would mislead the people of both countries and the international community,” the foreign ministry said.

While Beijing’s warning about playing with fire on Taiwan drew attention on Thursday, it does not represent an escalation of Xi’s usual diplomatic rhetoric, US analysts said.

“There’s a whole lexicon of Chinese threat speech that he hasn’t touched yet,” said John Culver, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s China Hub.

Yun Sun, China program director at the Stimson Center think tank, noted that the two countries said the conversation covered a wide range of topics, from the pandemic to climate change. She described it as “more positive than the two leaders inquiring, well, we’re going to stick to our positions on Taiwan.”

She also suggested that Xi could be pressured to ease tensions as he seeks a third term as president.

“They can’t afford to sever the relationship with the United States,” she said.

The call with Xi came as Biden aims to find new ways to work with China and contain his influence around the world. Differing perspectives on global health, economic policy and human rights have long tested the relationship – with China’s refusal to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine adding further tension.

Pelosi’s potential visit to Taiwan created another pressure point. Beijing has said it would view such a trip as a provocation, a threat that US officials are taking with increased seriousness in light of Russia’s incursion into Ukraine.

“If the United States insists on going its own way and challenging China’s financial performance, it will surely receive strong responses,” Zhao Lijian, spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry, told reporters earlier this week. . “All consequences arising therefrom shall be borne by the United States”

Pelosi would be the highest-ranking U.S. lawmaker to visit 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 believe it was “not a good idea” for the speaker to travel to the island at this time.

John Kirby, a US national security spokesman, said Wednesday that it was important for Biden and Xi to touch each other regularly.

“The president wants to make sure the lines of communication with President Xi stay open because they need to,” Kirby told reporters during a White House briefing. “There are issues on which 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 countries,” Kirby said.

Biden moved to shift U.S. reliance on Chinese manufacturing, including Congress’ final approval on Thursday of legislation to encourage semiconductor companies to build more factories. high tech in the United States

He also wants to mobilize global democracies to support infrastructure investment in low- and middle-income countries as an alternative to China’s “Belt and Road” initiative, which aims to boost China’s trade with other global markets. .

Biden has kept Trump-era tariffs on many Chinese-made products in place to maintain his influence over Beijing. But he is considering whether to ease at least some of them to lessen the impact of soaring inflation on US households.

US officials have also criticized China’s ‘zero-COVID’ policy of mass testing and lockdown in a bid to contain the spread of COVID-19 in its territory, calling it misguided and fearing that it further slow global economic growth.

Other points of tension include China’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims, which the United States has declared genocide, its militarization in the South China Sea and its global campaign of economic and political espionage.


Associated Press writers Ken Moritsugu and Joe McDonald contributed from Beijing.

Lynn A. Saleh