First phone call since November: Biden and Xi keep their promise

First phone call since November
Biden and Xi are keeping their promise

Listen to article

This audio version was artificially generated. More info | Send feedback

US President Biden and Chinese President Xi are resuming diplomatic contact in order to ease the relationship between the two countries somewhat. In their phone conversation, however, critical topics such as Taiwan or China’s trade practices come to the table.

US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke on the phone for the first time since their crisis meeting in California in November. The White House announced this following the conversation. The two presidents met last November near the US metropolis of San Francisco for a personal meeting after a whole year of complete radio silence in order to stabilize relations between the two countries. There they also agreed to talk on the phone regularly again in the future. They now complied.

The US government headquarters spoke of an “open and constructive” discussion in which Biden also addressed many critical points: including China’s attitude towards Taiwan, Chinese support for Russia’s defense industry and Beijing’s “unfair” trade practices. Dangers associated with artificial intelligence and the fight against international drug trafficking were also discussed.

A senior US government official said that further exchanges at the level of Cabinet members were expected after the presidents’ phone call. US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen wants to travel to China again in the coming days and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in the coming weeks. Visits by members of the Chinese government to the USA are also planned. There should also be a telephone conversation between the defense ministers of both countries soon.

The resumption of military communication between the two countries was considered the most important result of the crisis meeting between Biden and Xi in California four and a half months ago. The US government had previously repeatedly complained that the usual direct exchange between the two countries’ armed forces was not working and that this could lead to dangerous misunderstandings and miscalculations in crisis situations.

The big controversial issue is Taiwan

Relations between the world’s two largest economies have long been strained, including after economic sanctions against Beijing and amid fears in the West that China’s army could invade Taiwan. The island republic, which is only separated from China by a strait, has had a democratic government for decades. However, China sees the country with more than 23 million inhabitants as part of its territory. There are fears that China could annex Taiwan using military force.

Biden has promised Taipei military assistance in such an event. The area around Taiwan is often the scene of military demonstrations of force. The meeting in California did not bring about any significant easing of tensions on the Taiwan issue. The White House now said that in the phone call with Xi, Biden once again emphasized the importance of maintaining peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, as well as the rule of law and freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.

Citing the intense economic competition between the two countries, the US government headquarters said: “President Biden also expressed continued concern about the People’s Republic of China’s unfair trade policies and non-market economic practices that harm American workers and families.” The president also emphasized that the United States would continue to take the necessary precautions “to prevent advanced US technologies from being used to undermine our national security.”

The topic of drugs also came up. At their personal meeting in California, Biden and Xi agreed, among other things, to cooperate in the fight against the import of the deadly drug fentanyl. Ingredients for the production of the opioid often come from China. Beijing should therefore restrict their export of certain chemical substances. The U.S. government official said China has taken initial action since the meeting in November. “But of course the drug trade is constantly evolving and changing.” In order to interrupt the flow of trade, the USA and China would have to continue to communicate closely, including at the law enforcement level.

The last phone call took place in July 2022

The two presidents met in November in California on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, but far away from the summit location and in front of an idyllic setting: in a magnificent property outside of San Francisco. Previously, Biden and Xi had not seen each other or spoken to each other in person for a whole year, since the G20 summit in Bali in November 2022.

The most recent phone call before the conversation on Tuesday was also a long time ago: according to the US government, the last time the two spoke to each other was in July 2022. The US government official said regular top-level communication is essential to effectively manage the complex and often tense bilateral relationship. However, it is unclear when the two presidents could meet in person again.

There is a presidential election in the USA at the beginning of November, in which Biden wants to run for a second term. His likely challenger is former Republican President Donald Trump. Polls currently predict a neck-and-neck race between the two.

source site-34