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US President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping spoke by phone on Tuesday. Photos: AFP

Xi, Biden in first phone call since 2022, make progress for China-US relations with ‘candid’ exchange of views

  • Two leaders described as holding ‘a candid and in-depth exchange of views’ on topics ranging from counter-narcotics cooperation to climate change
  • But Xi criticised Biden’s ‘endless stream of measures to suppress China’s economy, trade, science and technology’
Chinese President Xi Jinping and his US counterpart Joe Biden spoke by phone on Tuesday, as the two countries sought to make headway in their limited areas of aligned interests amid heightening tensions between the two powers.
“The two heads of state had a candid and in-depth exchange of views on Sino-US relations and issues of common concern to both sides,” state news agency Xinhua reported.
However, it added that Xi criticised the Biden administration’s “endless stream of efforts” to block the transfer of advanced technology to China.
A White House read-out after the call said the leaders “reviewed and encouraged progress on key issues discussed at [their November summit in California], including counter-narcotics cooperation, ongoing military-to-military communication, talks to address AI-related risks and continuing efforts on climate change and people-to-people exchanges”.


Biden is freezing out China’s tech industry

Biden is freezing out China’s tech industry

Ahead of the call, a senior White House official said Secretary of State Antony Blinken was scheduling a trip to China in coming weeks and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen was also visiting the country this month. The two sides were also expecting a call between their top military officials “soon”.

After last year’s summit with Xi, seen as a success in Washington, Biden told reporters that “[the Chinese leader] and I agreed that each is willing to pick up the phone and call directly and be heard immediately”.

Xi and Biden – who were in California for the Apec leaders’ meeting – spent several hours together at Filoli, a rural estate in Woodside, south of San Francisco, which served as the backdrop for the popular soap opera Dynasty in the 1980s.

“In the past few months, teams from both sides have conscientiously implemented the consensus we reached, and Sino-US relations have stabilised, which has been welcomed by all walks of life in both countries and the international community,” Xinhua said of Tuesday’s call.

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“On the other hand, negative factors in the relations between the two countries have also increased, which require the attention of both parties,” it added.

“The United States has launched an endless stream of measures to suppress China’s economy, trade, science and technology, and the list of sanctions against Chinese companies is getting longer and longer,” the report said.

“This is not de-risking, but creation of risks.”

On this issue, Biden told Xi that he “will continue to take necessary actions to prevent advanced US technologies from being used to undermine our national security, without unduly limiting trade and investment”, according to the White House read-out.

The comments were similar to Beijing’s statement published after the November summit in which Xi said the Biden administration’s control measures “have seriously harmed China’s legitimate interests”.

Semiconductor products belonging to the company Maxone on display during the Semicon China exhibition in Shanghai on March 22. Photo: AFP

He told Biden at the time that these measures were “suppressing China’s science and technology to hinder China’s high-quality development and deprive the Chinese people of their right to development”.

Hours later, at a dinner organised by the National Committee on US-China Relations, US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo responded that Washington was “adopting targeted, precise protections [so] our most sensitive technology … cannot be used against us”.

The measure should not be seen as an obstacle to cooperation between the two sides on matters of mutual interest, Raimondo added.

While Xi reproached Biden for the tech trade restrictions, Biden took aim at the Chinese government’s “support for Russia’s defence industrial base and its impact on European and transatlantic security”.
The Chinese read-out made no mention of Russia’s war against Ukraine.

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Biden also raised continued concerns about “[China’s] unfair trade policies and non-market economic practices, which harm American workers and families”, according to the White House read-out.

As is standard practice, Xi also made several references to Taiwan in Tuesday’s exchange, calling the issue “the first insurmountable red line in Sino-US relations” and urging Biden to put his “positive statement of not supporting ‘Taiwan independence’ into action”.
On that note, Biden “emphasised the importance of maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and the rule of law and freedom of navigation in the South China Sea”, according to the White House read-out.

Beijing regards the island as part of China and has not renounced the use of force to bring it back under its control. Like most countries, the US does not recognise Taiwan as independent, but it is opposed to any unilateral change to the island’s status quo.

The latest call formed part of an “ongoing effort” between the two leaders to “maintain regular open lines of communication, to responsibly manage competition and prevent unintended conflict”, the White House official said.

Xi and Biden last spoke by phone in July 2022, when tensions were soaring between Washington and Beijing over a proposed trip to Taiwan by Nancy Pelosi in her role as US House speaker.

Military-to-military communication channels between the two powers were severed after Pelosi’s visit a few weeks later and were only restored after the Woodside summit.

Since then, military officials from both sides met at the Defence Policy Coordination Talks in Washington – where they exchanged contrary views over Taiwan – in early January.

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This week, the two countries plan to hold a Military Maritime Consultative Agreement meeting in Honolulu, Hawaii.

The White House official who spoke ahead of the call said some progress had been made on the commitment to cooperate on anti-narcotic measures, another outcome of last year’s Xi-Biden summit.

While China has implemented some initial measures to restrict the flow of chemicals used to produce illicit synthetic drugs, there was still a need for substantive law enforcement actions and close consultations from both sides, the official said.

China and the US will also hold an AI dialogue in the coming weeks, to enhance mutual understanding in terms of managing the risks associated with artificial intelligence technology.

Additional reporting by Robert Delaney in Washington