The first in-person meeting between President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping was agreed upon during a tense phone call on Thursday, during which Xi warned the United States not to "play with fire" on Taiwan.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Vice President Joe Biden, and Chinese President Xi Jinping discussed the importance of meeting face to face and agreed on a mutually convenient time to do so.
In the two-hour and 17-minute phone call, both sides described it as an intense debate on a wide range of issues between the world's two most powerful economies.
Xinhua, China's state-run news agency, reported that Xi had harsh words for US policy towards Taiwan, a democratic island with close ties to the United States, which China, however, considers part of its territory.
Xi was quoted as saying to Biden, "Those who play with fire will eventually get burned," echoing language he used when the two met in November. "I hope the United States side fully grasps this."
Fears that Xi will eventually order an invasion to impose Beijing's rule on Taiwan are escalating.
Nancy Pelosi, a close ally of Vice President Joe Biden, is the latest target of Chinese fury over unconfirmed plans to visit the island.
Pelosi's visit to Taiwan, which is only separated from China by a narrow strip of water, is seen as a major provocation by Beijing. Due to her position, she may be able to use military transportation when she travels.
According to China's warning, if the trip goes ahead, Washington will be forced to "bear the consequences.
"The position of the Chinese government and people on the Taiwan issue is consistent," Xi reportedly told Biden during the phone call.
China's national sovereignty and territorial integrity are "firmly in the hands of the more than 1.4 billion Chinese people," he said.
He assured Xi that US policy, known as "strategic ambiguity," was unchanged—essentially favouring the current situation in Taiwan, where Washington recognizes Chinese sovereignty but opposes any enforcement, allowing Taiwan to retain its distinct rule. Xi's response was resoundingly enthusiastic.
While President Biden did not change US policy, he did emphasize that the US opposes any unilateral efforts to alter the status quo or undermine peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, the White House said in a statement
Tariffs remain unchanged.
Even though Biden has a longstanding friendship with Xi Jinping, it's becoming increasingly difficult to hide the growing distrust between the two countries.
"genocide and forced labour practices" and "increasingly aggressive military posture" were among the topics discussed by Biden, according to US officials.
As described by the White House, Vice President Biden's outreach is part of his "efforts to maintain and deepen lines of communication" and to "responsibly manage our differences and work together where our interests align".
In the White House's view, Vice President Biden's primary goal is to establish "guardrails" for the two superpowers.
Because they disagreed on democracy and geopolitical rivalry, this is designed to keep them from engaging in open conflict.
However, with so many unresolved issues, including a simmering trade war that began under Donald Trump's presidency, deciding where to put the guardrails is difficult.
The Trump administration's 25 per cent tariffs on billions of dollars of Chinese goods remain one of the biggest unanswered questions.
No progress was made on this issue during the meeting between Xi and Biden, despite speculation that he would ease some of the tariffs to reduce the soaring inflation in America's economy.
When asked by reporters about the tariff issue, a US official said, "President Biden explained to President Xi... the core concerns with China's unfair practices that harm American workers and harm American families, but he did not discuss any potential steps he might take."
"It would be incorrect to believe that any decision on any future steps was somehow awaiting this conversation." "
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