Biden and Xi discuss US-China bilateral ties during phone call

Washington: US President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping held a phone call on Tuesday morning to discuss bilateral ties and regional and global issues, including progress on counternarcotics and cooperation in areas like artificial intelligence and climate change.

This is the first phone call between the two leaders after their summit meeting at Woodside in California last November.

The call builds on previous meetings between US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and the Communist Party of China, Director of the Office of Foreign Affairs Commission and Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Bangkok on January 27 and Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s meeting with Wang in Munich in February this year.

Notably, the last phone call between the two leaders was in July 2022. The call highlights the importance of intense diplomacy to manage tensions and prevent unintended conflict, a senior administration official told reporters ahead of the call between the two leaders.

A senior administration official told reporters on the eve of the call that the two leaders were to discuss the US-China bilateral relationship, the continued importance of strengthening lines of communication and managing competition and a range of regional and global issues.

“Of course, we have not changed our approach to the People’s Republic of China, which remains one focused on the framework of invest, align and compete,” the official said.

Noting that intense competition requires intense diplomacy to manage tensions, address misperceptions prevent unintended conflict and discover ways to do that, the official said adding that there are also areas of cooperation where the interests of the two countries align.

It is important to work together to deliver on issues that matter to the American people, said the official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

These areas include counter-narcotics, risk and safety issues related to AI, resumption of military-to-military communication channels and climate issues.

“The US and China need to maintain close consultation with law enforcement at the technical level and otherwise, to really drive that substantive law enforcement action,” the official added.

The President will also express concern over Chinese actions in the South China Sea including the dangerous recent action against the coast guard against routine Philippine maritime operations, the official said.

China claims nearly all of the disputed South China Sea, though Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam all claim parts of it. Beijing has built artificial islands and military installations in the South China Sea.

The US has already expressed its concerns about China’s support for Russia’s work in Ukraine and its efforts to help Russia reconstitute its defence industrial base, said the official.

“We also expect the two leaders to cover a range of other regional and global issues including efforts to advance the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.

“On economic and trade issues, President Biden will likely reiterate concerns about the People’s Republic of China’s unfair economic practices and convey that the US will continue to take actions to protect our economic and national security interests includes among other things, ensuring a fair and level playing field for American workers as well technology from being used to undermine our national security,” the official said.

Observing that in many conversations with Xi, Biden has consistently underscored the critical importance of respect for human rights, the official said they expect Biden will again raise concerns regarding the erosion of Hong Kong’s autonomy, and PRC human rights abuses, including in Xinjiang.

“Following the leader’s call, we will continue to advance our interests through Cabinet-level diplomacy, including visits to the PRC by Secretary of the Treasury Yellen in the coming days, the Secretary of State Blinken and in the coming weeks. We also expect a Secretary Defence-Minister of Defence call soon and of course, paired with this is travel by PRC officials here to the United States as well,” the official said.