Xi and Biden hold first call in seven months in bid ‘to ensure competition does not veer into conflict’

Biden initiated the call with Xi Jinping amid growing frustration on the American side that the engagement between the officials has largely been unfruitful

Namita Singh
Friday 10 September 2021 15:10

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The US President Joe Biden spoke to his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping for about 90 minutes, in their first conversation in seven months.

The two heads of states “held candid, in-depth and broad strategic communication” and discussed the need “to ensure competition does not veer into conflict,” according to statements issued by the White House and Chinese state media.

The White House statement said that Mr Biden and Mr Xi had a “broad strategic discussion” in which they spoke about the area where their “interests converge” and where the “interests, values, and perspective diverge”.

“They agreed to engage on both set of issues openly and straightforwardly,” said the statement, adding that this discussion “was part of the US’ ongoing effort to responsibly manage the competition between the US and the PRC.”

“President Biden underscored the United States’ enduring interest in peace, stability, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific and the world and the two leaders discussed the responsibility of both nations to ensure competition does not veer into conflict," the statement said.

A senior official told reporters that the two leaders focussed their conversation on economic issues, climate change and Covid-19.

According to Chinese state media CCTV, Mr Xi told the US president that “for some time, US policy toward China has caused serious difficulties in Sino-US relations, which is inconsistent with the fundamental interests of the two peoples and the common interests of all countries in the world”.

“Xi called on the two nations to respect each other’s core concerns and properly handle their differences,” added the report.

The ties between the US and China, sharply deteriorated during the presidency of Donald Trump and have shown no signs of improvement under the new presidency of Joe Biden. Biden and Xi have not yet met in person, highlighting the tensions in their bilateral relationship.

Last week, China’s foreign minister Wang Yi warned the US that the deteriorating relations between the world’s two largest economies could undermine their cooperation on climate change.

Earlier in March, Secretary of Antony Blinken and China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi sparred publicly on a range of issues from trade to human rights issues in Tibet, Hong Kong, and China’s western Xinjiang region as well as the coronavirus pandemic.

The phone call on Thursday was made at the behest of Mr Biden who has become “exasperated” by the unwillingness of the lower level Chinese officials to hold a proper exchange with his administration, according to the BBC.

Accusing the Chinese of being mostly "unwilling to engage in serious or substantive" talks, a White House official told AFP that "we don’t believe that that is how responsible nations act, especially given the global importance of the US-China competition”.

In the face of this deadlock, "President Biden understood the importance of engaging President Xi directly," the official said.

An official told Reuters that Mr Biden has not planned to raise retaliatory action against China if the latter refuses to cooperate on a range of issues including the probe into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic. The communist state has, however, denied the accusations of non-cooperation in the investigation.

Additional reporting from the wires

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