American President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke for the fifth time Thursday as leaders of the world’s biggest powers.
The call began at 12:33 UTC and ended more than two hours later. It comes as concerns are rising over the issue of Taiwan and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The two leaders also disagreed on health, economic policy and human rights issues.
The latest dispute has been the possible visit of U.S. Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan. Pelosi would be the highest-ranking U.S. elected official to travel to Taiwan since 1997. Then-speaker Newt Gingrich visited the island when China was preparing to celebrate Hong Kong’s return from Britain.
The U.S. does not have official diplomatic relations with Taiwan but continues informal relations and defense ties. Biden last week told reporters that U.S. military officials believed it was “not a good idea” for the speaker to visit the island now.
China considers self-governing Taiwan a part of its territory. On Wednesday, a foreign ministry spokesman said such a visit could be met with “forceful responses.” And he added, “All ensuing consequences shall be borne by the U.S.”
Martin Chorzempa is an expert at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. He told Reuters that talking about the Taiwan issue could serve Xi by taking attention away from China's slowing economy.
Scott Kennedy of Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies added that "the risk of a major crisis is well above zero" and a Biden-Xi call was important to avoid an unwanted clash.
John Kirby is a U.S. national security spokesman. He said Wednesday before the call that it was important for Biden and Xi to speak together regularly.
“The president wants to make sure that the lines of communication with President Xi remain open because they need to,” Kirby told reporters. He said there are issues on which cooperation is possible and others where there is tension.
The conversation comes as Biden has taken measures to move the U.S. from depending on Chinese manufacturing. This week, the U.S. Senate passed a bill to help semiconductor companies build more factories in the country.
Biden has also urged Western democracies to support his ideas for infrastructure financing for low- and middle-income nations. The move would be to balance China’s “Belt and Road Initiative,” which aims to increase China's trade in new international markets.
Kirby said there were several areas of U.S.-China tension that he said would be part of the discussion. They include China’s “aggressive” behavior in the Indo-Pacific area and its reaction to Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Other disagreements include China’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, which the U.S. has declared a genocide. Additional issues are China’s building of military structures in the South China Sea, and its campaign of economic and political spying.
I’m Dan Friedell.
Hai Do adapted this story from reports by the Associated Press and Reuters.
Words in This Story
ensue –n. to happen at a later time or to happen as a result of something
consequences –n. (often pl.) results that come about because of an earlier action
borne –v. (past participle of bear) to accept or deal with
semiconductor –n. a substance that can carry an electrical current under some conditions; a device that carries electricity in electronics such as a computer
infrastructure –n. the basic equipment and structures (such as roads and bridges) that are needed for a country, region, or organization to function properly
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