Biden chats with Xi amid low point in US-China ties

WASHINGTON – In their first conversation in seven months, President Biden held talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday, expr...


WASHINGTON – In their first conversation in seven months, President Biden held talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday, expressing concern over China’s cyber activities while saying the leaders of the world’s two largest economies could put put aside their differences to work together on climate change.

The call amounted to a breakdown in what experts called one of the lowest points in relations between the two countries in decades. This was only the second time that leaders have spoken since Mr. Biden’s inauguration; the lack of communication is a measure of the growing tensions between their nations as they seek to maneuver to limit the overall influence of the other.

The call, which lasted 90 minutes according to a senior administration official, came at a particularly delicate time. Tensions are growing over Taiwan and the South China Sea, and Mr. Biden is trying to rally the West in what he calls a battle between “autocracy versus democracy.” It also took place less than two weeks after the The United States has completed its withdrawal from Afghanistan, where China became interested in the extraction of raw materials.

Even though senior Biden officials stressed the importance of engaging directly with Xi after months of stalled talks, administration officials on Thursday evening gave remarkably few details on the call. . Mr Biden urged China to agree to a set of safeguards for policymaking while stressing the need to mitigate climate change, officials said.

The discussion “was part of the United States’ continued efforts to responsibly manage competition between the United States and the PRC,” according to a White House statement, using the abbreviation of the People’s Republic of China. Mr. Biden “underscored the United States’ enduring interest in peace, stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific and around the world, and the two leaders discussed the responsibility of the two countries to ensure that that competition does not degenerate into conflict “.

The official Chinese summary of the appeal says Xi told Biden that the US government’s policy towards China has strained relations and that it is in the interests of both countries to avoid confrontation.

“The policies that the United States adopted towards China for some time have pushed Sino-American relations into serious difficulties, and this is at odds with the fundamental interests of the peoples of the two countries and the common interests of each country. around the world, ”Xi said, according to a summary of the call published online by the Chinese Foreign Ministry. “Whether China and the United States can properly manage the mutual relations is a question for the century concerning the fate of the world, and the two countries must answer it. “

Xi cited climate change, pandemic prevention and control, and economic recovery as areas where Beijing and Washington should cooperate, according to the Foreign Ministry. But he noted that the effort should be based on “respecting everyone’s basic concerns and dealing with differences appropriately.”

The call between the two leaders – their first substantive conversation since February – showed the sense of urgency in the White House to compete with Beijing and set political expectations.

Ahead of the call in the treaty room, senior administration officials said the conversation became necessary after previous discussions erupted into criticism and ended with few commitments to collaborate.

A meeting in March between senior Chinese diplomats and senior officials in the Biden administration, including Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, resulted in denunciations and no joint statement on an intention to collaborate. A trip by Wendy R. Sherman, Assistant Secretary of State, to China in July also ended with little sign of progress.

In the most recent attempt to work together to tackle climate change, Chinese officials told John Kerry, the US climate envoy, in Tianjin last week that escalating tension would hamper any potential cooperation.

“Without political will at the top of the two governments, any stabilization of the relationship, any progress towards work of mutual interest like the climate or the pandemic, is impossible,” said Myron Brilliant, executive vice president and chief international officer at the American Chamber of Commerce. “It starts with the two leaders agreeing to a framework to work together on areas of common interest.”

Mr Brilliant said the next phase of dialogue between the two leaders should “be supported by more concrete steps towards engagement in areas where the two sides also have differences and challenges”, such as trade and technology. .

Mr Biden expressed concerns to Mr Xi over cybersecurity, two months after administration accused the Chinese government of violating Microsoft The messaging systems used by the world’s largest corporations and the United States have assembled a large group of allies to condemn Beijing for cyberattacks around the world.

The Biden administration’s efforts to organize denunciations from several nations angered the Chinese Communist Party. But the Foreign Ministry’s summary of the appeal said the two countries “agreed that it is very important that the leaders of China and the United States engage in full communication” and that they would maintain regular contact.

The conversation took place weeks after experts assembled by the Director of National Intelligence, Avril D. Haines, reported that they could not conclude whether the coronavirus had escaped from a laboratory or came from a mutation of the virus in the animal population. The inconclusive nature of the review is sure to support competing theories about how the coronavirus emerged – and the extent to which Beijing, which has blocked access to key researchers, bears responsibility.

Chris Buckley contributed reports.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Biden chats with Xi amid low point in US-China ties
Biden chats with Xi amid low point in US-China ties
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