Baltimore Sun

Taiwan policy looms large in lengthy Biden-Xi phone call

- By Chris Megerian and Zeke Miller

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden and China’s Xi Jinping are exploring meeting in person, a senior administra­tion official said after the leaders spent more than two hours on Thursday talking through the future of their complicate­d relationsh­ip, with tension over Taiwan once again emerging as a flashpoint.

The official declined to be identified to talk about the private conversati­on.

Biden conducted the telephone call from the Oval Office, where he was joined by top aides, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

When Biden was vice president, he spent long hours with Xi in the United States and China. However, they have not met in person since Biden became president in January 2021.

A recurring strain is Taiwan, which has governed itself for decades but China asserts as part of its territory, a claim emphasized by Xi on Thursday.

“Those who play with fire will perish by it,” said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “It is hoped that the U.S. will be clear-eyed about this.”

The White House released its own descriptio­n of the conversati­on about Taiwan, saying that Biden “underscore­d that the United States policy has not changed and that the United States strongly opposes unilateral efforts to change the status quo or undermine peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.”

The goal of the call was to “responsibl­y manage our difference­s and work together where our interests align,” the White House said.

As usual, China left no doubt that it blames the U.S. for the deteriorat­ing relationsh­ip between the two countries.

“President Xi underscore­d that to approach and define China-US relations in terms of strategic competitio­n and view China as the primary rival and the most serious long-term challenge would be misperceiv­ing China-U.S. relations and misreading China’s developmen­t, and would mislead the people of the two countries and the internatio­nal community,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

Differing perspectiv­es on global health, economic policy and human rights have long tested the relationsh­ip — with China’s refusal to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine adding further strain.

The latest pressure point has been House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s potential visit to Taiwan, which has a democratic government and receives informal defensive support from the U.S., but which China considers part of its territory. Beijing has said it would view such a trip as a provocatio­n, a threat U.S. officials are taking with heightened seriousnes­s in light of Russia’s incursion into Ukraine.

“If the U.S. insists on going its own way and challengin­g China’s bottom line, it will surely be met with forceful responses,” Zhao Lijian, a spokespers­on for

China’s Foreign Ministry, told reporters earlier this week. “All ensuing consequenc­es shall be borne by the U.S.”

Biden last week told reporters that U.S. military officials believed it was “not a good idea” for Pelosi, D-Calif., to visit the island at the moment.

John Kirby, a U.S. national security spokesman, said Wednesday that it was important for Biden and Xi to regularly touch base.

“The president wants to make sure that the lines of communicat­ion with President Xi remain open because they need to,” Kirby told reporters at a White House briefing.

“This is one of the most consequent­ial bilateral relationsh­ips in the world today, with ramificati­ons well beyond both individual countries,” Kirby said.

Biden has moved to shift U.S. reliance off Chinese manufactur­ing, including final congressio­nal approval Thursday of legislatio­n to encourage semiconduc­tor companies to build more high-tech plants in the U.S.

He also wants to marshal global democracie­s to support infrastruc­ture investment­s in low- and middle-income nations as an alternativ­e to China’s aims to boost trade with other global markets.

 ?? CHIANG YING-YING/AP 2021 ?? The status of Taiwan remains a sore point in U.S.-China relations. Beijing has warned of“forceful responses”if House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visits.
CHIANG YING-YING/AP 2021 The status of Taiwan remains a sore point in U.S.-China relations. Beijing has warned of“forceful responses”if House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visits.

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