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Biden and China's Xi make first contact since November with a 'check-in' call

President Joe Biden greets China's leader Xi Jinping at the Filoli Estate in Woodside, Calif., Nov, 15, 2023, on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperative conference.
Doug Mills/The New York Times via AP, Pool
President Joe Biden greets China's leader Xi Jinping at the Filoli Estate in Woodside, Calif., Nov, 15, 2023, on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperative conference.

BEIJING and WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping held what a senior Biden administration official dubbed a "check-in" call on Tuesday, marking the first conversation between the leaders since their face-to-face meeting in California in November.

The call touched on everything from Taiwan to the situation on the Korean Peninsula, artificial intelligence and Russia's war in Ukraine.

According to the Chinese readout, Xi told Biden strategic awareness "must always be the first 'button' to be fastened" in bilateral ties. The Chinese leader also elaborated his position on issues concerning Hong Kong, human rights and the South China Sea, the readout says.

The Chinese leader warned again that the "Taiwan issue" is an "insurmountable red line" in bilateral ties. Xi also urged Biden to "translate" his commitment of not supporting "Taiwan independence" into concrete actions, according to the readout.

Biden, in the call, emphasized 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 a White House readout.

The two leaders also discussed the global geopolitical situation. Biden, according to the White House, raised concerns over China's support for Russia's defense industrial base and its impact on European and transatlantic security. He also emphasized Washington's "enduring commitment" to the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Tuesday's call was the first time Biden and Xi have talked since they met in northern California in November. There, they agreed on a range of steps to try to prevent increasingly fraught U.S.-China ties from slipping into conflict, including more frequent contact at the leader level, between militaries and beyond.

Ahead of the call, a senior administration official told reporters the conversation would not represent a change in U.S. policy toward China, and competition remains a key feature.

"Intense competition requires intense diplomacy to manage tensions, address misperceptions and prevent unintended conflict. And this call is one way to do that," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not permitted to speak on the record.

Biden raised perennial U.S. concerns about China's "unfair trade policies and non-market economic practices," according to the White House readout — an issue that will be front and center when Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen visits China later this week.

The president also reiterated to his Chinese counterpart that Washington will continue to "take necessary actions to prevent advanced U.S. technologies from being used to undermine our national security, without unduly limiting trade and investment," the White House readout said.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

John Ruwitch is a correspondent with NPR's international desk. He covers Chinese affairs.
Vincent Ni
Vincent Ni is the Asia Editor at NPR, where he leads a team of Asia-based correspondents whose reporting spans from Afghanistan to Japan, and across all NPR platforms.
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