BEIJING (AP) — President Xi Jinping warned against meddling in China’s dealings with Taiwan during a phone call with his U.S. counterpart, Joe Biden, that gave no indication of progress on trade, technology or other irritants, including Beijing’s opposition to a top American lawmaker’s possible visit to the island that the mainland claims as its own territory.
Xi also warned against splitting the world’s two biggest economies, according to a Chinese government summary of Thursday’s unusually lengthy, three-hour call. Businesspeople and economists warn such a change, brought on by Chinese industrial policy and U.S. curbs on technology exports, might hurt the global economy by slowing innovation and increasing costs.
Meanwhile, Xi and Biden are looking at the possibility of meeting in person, according to a U.S. official who declined to be identified further. Xi has been invited to Indonesia in November for a meeting of the Group of 20 major economies, making it a potential location for a face-to-face meeting.
The Chinese government gave no indication Xi and Biden discussed possible plans by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to visit Taiwan, which the ruling Communist Party says has no right to conduct foreign relations. But Xi rejected “interference by external forces” that might encourage Taiwan to try to make its decades-old de facto independence permanent.
The tough language from Xi, who usually tries to appear to be above political disputes and makes blandly positive public comments, suggested Chinese leaders might believe Washington didn’t understand the seriousness of previous warnings about Taiwan.
“Resolutely safeguarding China’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity is the firm will of the more than 1.4 billion Chinese people,” foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said Friday. “Those who play with fire will perish by it.”
Taiwan and China split in 1949 following a civil war that ended with a communist victory on the mainland. They have no official relations but are linked by billions of dollars of trade and investment. Both sides say they are one country but disagree over which government is entitled to national leadership.
A Ministry of Defense spokesperson said ahead of Thursday’s call that Washington “must not arrange for Pelosi to visit Taiwan.” He said the ruling party’s military wing, the People’s Liberation Army, would take “strong measures to thwart any external interference.”
Xi called on the United States to “honor the one-China principle,” according to Zhao, referring to Beijing’s position that the mainland and Taiwan are one country. The United States, by contrast, has a “one-China policy” that says Washington takes no position on the question but wants to see it resolved peacefully.
“China’s opposition to to interactions between the United States and Taiwan is clear and consistent,” Zhao said.
A foreign ministry summary of the conversation cited Biden as saying the United States doesn’t support independence for Taiwan.
Coverage of the conversation in China’s entirely state-controlled media on Friday was limited to repeating government statements.
Pelosi has yet to confirm whether she will go to Taiwan, but if she does, the Democrat from California would be the highest-ranking elected American official to visit since then-Speaker Newt Gingrich in 1997.
Beijing criticized Gingrich for saying the United States would defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese attack but did little else in response to his three-hour visit to the island.
Since then, China’s position on Taiwan has hardened as the mainland economy grew to become second-largest after the United States. The ruling party poured hundreds of billions of dollars into developing fighter jets and other high-tech weapons including “carrier killer” missiles that are thought to be intended to block the U.S. Navy from helping to defend the island.
The conflict over a possible Pelosi visit is more sensitive to Beijing in a year when Xi, who took power in 2012, is expected to try to break with tradition and award himself a third five-year term as party leader.
Xi, who wants to be seen as restoring China’s rightful historic role as a global leader, has promoted a more assertive policy abroad. The People’s Liberation Army has sent growing numbers of fighter planes and bombers to fly near Taiwan in an attempt to intimidate its democratically elected government.
The United States has no official relations with Taiwan but has extensive commercial ties and informal political connections. Washington is obliged by federal law to see that Taiwan has the means to defend itself.
Xi called for cooperation on reducing the risk of economic recession, coordinating macroeconomic policies, fighting COVID-19 and “de-escalation of regional hot spots,” according to the government statement.
He also warned against decoupling, or separating, the U.S. and Chinese economies for strategic reasons.
Businesspeople and industry analysts have warned global industries might be split into separate markets with incompatible products due to China’s pressure on its companies to develop their own technology standards and U.S. restrictions on Chinese access to technology that Washington see as a security risk. That might slow innovation and increase costs.
“Attempts at decoupling or severing supply chains in defiance of underlying laws would not help boost the U.S. economy,” the statement said. “They would only make the world economy more vulnerable.”
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden and China’s Xi Jinping spent more than two hours Thursday talking through the future of their complicated relationship, with the flashpoint of Taiwan once again emerging as a key point of tension.
According to a description of the call released by Beijing, Xi emphasized China’s claim over the island, which has governed itself for decades.
“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 has not yet released its own readout on the call, which began at 8:33 a.m. EDT and ended at 10:50 a.m. EDT.
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.
The call took place as Biden aims to find new ways to work with China and contain its influence around the world. 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.”
Pelosi would be the highest-ranking U.S. elected official to travel to Taiwan since Republican Newt Gingrich visited the island in 1997 when he was House speaker. Biden last week told reporters that U.S. military officials believed it was “not a good idea” for the speaker 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. “There are issues where we can cooperate with China on, and there are issues where obviously there are friction and tension.”
Biden and Xi last spoke in March, shortly after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“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 Senate passage Wednesday of legislation to encourage semiconductor companies to build more high-tech plants in the U.S. Biden wants to marshal global democracies to support infrastructure investments in low- and middle-income nations as an alternative to China’s “Belt and Road Initiative,” which aims to boost China trade with other global markets.
Biden has kept in place Trump-era tariffs on many Chinese-manufactured goods in order to maintain leverage over Beijing. But he is weighing whether to ease at least some of them to lessen the impact of soaring inflation on American households.
U.S. officials have also criticized China’s “zero-COVID” policy of mass testing and lockdowns in an effort to contain the spread of COVID-19 in its territory, labeling it misguided and fretting that it will further slow global economic growth.
Other points of strain include China’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims, which the U.S. has declared a genocide, its militarization in the South China Sea and its global campaign of economic and political espionage.