Biden, Xi may meet in person, US official says

Washington – President Joe Biden and China’s Xi Jinping are looking to meet in person, a senior administration official said Thursday after leaders spent more than two hours talking about the future of their complicated relationship, Tensions on Taiwan are once again emerging as a flashpoint.

Biden conducted the telephone call from the Oval Office, where he was joined by top aides, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken. The officer declined to be identified to speak about the private conversation.

When Biden was vice president, he spent long periods with Xi in the United States and China, an experience he often recalls when he spoke of the two countries’ conflict and opportunities for cooperation. However, they have not met in person since Biden became president last year.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Xi has left mainland China only once to visit Hong Kong. However, he has been formally invited to Indonesia for the next G20 summit of the world’s major economies in November, making the conference a possible venue for a meeting with Biden.

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The latest tension over Taiwan is a possible visit by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to the island, which has governed itself for decades but claims China as part of its territory.

Xi emphasized those claims during his call with Biden, according to China’s foreign ministry.

“Those who play with fire will be destroyed by it,” the ministry said. “Hopefully America will be clear about this.”

The White House released its own description of the talks regarding Taiwan, saying that Biden “emphasized that United States policy has not changed and that the United States is not willing to change the status quo or undermine peace and stability in the Taiwan Straits.” Strongly opposes unilateral efforts.”

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The goal 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,” the White House said. .

As always, China leaves no doubt that it blames the US for the deteriorating relations between the two countries.

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“President Xi underlined that defining Sino-US relations in the context of strategic competition and viewing China as the primary rival and the most serious long-term challenge is misunderstanding Sino-US relations and misreading China’s development and People will have to be misled. of both the countries and the international community,” the Ministry of External Affairs said.

US analysts said Beijing’s warning about playing with fire on Taiwan drew attention on Thursday, but it did not represent an increase in Xi’s usual diplomatic rhetoric.

“The Chinese have a whole dictionary of threatening speech that they haven’t touched on yet,” said John Culver, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s China Hub.

Yun Sun, director of the China program at the Stimson Center think tank, said the two countries said the talks covered a range of topics from pandemics to climate change. She described it as “more positive than the two leaders informing each other, well, we’ll stick to our position on Taiwan.”

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He also suggested that a third term as president might encourage Xi to de-escalate tensions.

“They cannot afford to break ties with the United States,” she said.

The call with Xi comes because Biden aims to find new ways to work with China and control its influence around the world. Divergent perspectives on global health, economic policy and human rights have long tested ties – with China’s refusal to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine further heightened tensions.

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

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“If the US insists on going its own way and challenging China’s bottom line, it will certainly face an overwhelming response,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters earlier this week. ” “All ensuing consequences will be borne by the US”

Pelosi will be the highest-ranking US elected official to visit Taiwan since Republican Newt Gingrich visited the island in 1997 as House Speaker. 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.

US national security spokesman John Kirby said on Wednesday that it was important for Biden and Xi to touch base regularly.

“The president wants to make sure that the lines of communication with President Xi remain open because he needs to,” Kirby told reporters at the White House briefing. “There are issues where we can cooperate with China, and there are issues where there is clearly friction and tension.”

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Biden and Xi last spoke in March, shortly after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“It is one of the most consequential bilateral relations in the world today, with influences that extend beyond both individual countries,” Kirby said.

Biden has shifted from Chinese manufacturing to shifting US dependence, including a final congressional approval Thursday to encourage semiconductor companies to build more high-tech plants in the US.

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He wants to marshal 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. have to give.

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Biden has placed Trump-era tariffs on many Chinese-made goods to maintain leverage on Beijing. But he is considering whether to reduce some of them to offset the impact of rising 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 in its region, calling it misguided and fretting that it Will further slow down global economic growth.

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

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

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