BEIJING – US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping ended a phone call on Thursday with plans to hold a face-to-face meeting for the first time since Biden took office, a senior US official said at a briefing.
However, Xi remained tight-lipped on Taiwan, while Biden said the US position had not changed, according to official figures from the US and Chinese governments.
The data did not mention plans for a face-to-face meeting, but noted a plan by both parties to maintain communication. The American representative informed the journalists after the phone call.
“At the end, there was an exchange of views about … a conversation about a face-to-face meeting between the teams,” the official said, according to a White House transcript. “From my perspective, a very clear, positive agenda was presented and approved.”
China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The two leaders’ latest conversation came during a tense period between their countries, particularly over recent rhetoric surrounding Taiwan. Beijing considers the democratically self-governing island part of its territory.
“That the call took place is mildly positive and shows that both leaders want to keep a floor under deteriorating bilateral relations,” Eurasia Group analysts said in a note. “Any future halt in top-level dialogue between the US and China would be a negative sign for global stability.”
“Si did not escalate China’s threats, but appeared to indirectly warn that Pelosi’s trip could fuel Chinese nationalism,” the report said.
Beijing has warned of “strong and decisive action” if US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visits Taiwan this summer, the Financial Times reported, citing sources.
Don’t play with fire
During Thursday’s call, the Chinese leader kept a firm line on the consequences of supporting Taiwan independence.
“Resolutely safeguarding China’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity is the firm will of more than 1.4 billion Chinese people,” Xi Jinping said during the call, according to an official statement from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in English.
“Those who play with fire will perish with it,” Xi said in a statement in part about his comments on China’s stance on Taiwan. “We hope the US will be clear on this.”
America’s “One China Policy” of the past few decades has recognized Beijing as the sole legitimate government of China. The US also maintains unofficial relations with Taiwan, with a policy of ensuring the island has the resources to defend itself.
Biden said during a call with Xi on Thursday that US policy on Taiwan had not changed, according to official data from China and the White House.
Tensions between the US and China have escalated under the Trump administration, which has imposed tariffs on billions of US dollars worth of goods from China and banned US businesses from selling supplies to some Chinese technology companies.
The Biden administration has characterized the bilateral relationship as one of strategic competition.
Areas of cooperation
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 text noted that Xi stressed the need for the two countries to communicate on “macroeconomic policy coordination”, stabilizing supply chains and safeguarding global energy and food security.
The two leaders, who last spoke in March, also discussed the war between Russia and Ukraine, the US and Chinese governments said. Beijing refused to call Moscow’s attack on Ukraine an invasion.
There was never any chance that the US would violate its own one-China policy. Not even a visit from Pelosi would change that.
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The call marked “a step forward in being able to discuss deeply sensitive issues [in a] labor-like way,” said Scott Kennedy, senior adviser and board chair for China trade and economics at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“There was never any chance that the US would violate its own one-China policy,” Kennedy said. “Even a visit from Pelosi wouldn’t change that.”
Both countries described the call as “sincere” and said it was initiated by the US.
The Chinese source noted that Biden had requested a phone call. The White House said the call was part of the Biden administration’s “effort to maintain and deepen lines of communication between the United States and [the People’s Republic of China] and to responsibly manage our differences and cooperate where our interests align.”