Xi gives Biden fiery warning on Taiwan, Beijing says

FILE - This combination image shows U.S. President Joe Biden in Washington, Nov. 6, 2021, and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Brasília, Brazil, Nov. 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, Eraldo Peres, File)

FILE – This combination image shows U.S. President Joe Biden in Washington, Nov. 6, 2021, and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Brasília, Brazil, Nov. 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, Eraldo Peres, File)

PA

President Joe Biden and China’s Xi Jinping spent more than two hours Thursday discussing the future of their complicated relationship, with Taiwan’s flashpoint once again emerging as a key point of tension.

According to a description of the call released by Beijing, Xi pointed to China’s claim to the island, which has been governing itself for decades.

“Those who play with fire will perish by it,” the Foreign Office said. “We hope that the United States will be lucid about this.”

The White House has yet to release its own reading of 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 blamed the United States for the deterioration in relations between the two countries.

“President Xi pointed out that to approach and define China-US relations in terms of strategic competition and see China as the main rival and the most serious long-term challenge would be to misunderstand China-US relations and interpret China’s development, and would mislead the people of both countries and the international community,” the foreign ministry said.

The call came as Biden aims to find new ways to work with China and contain his 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 tension.

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

“If the United States insists on going its own way and challenging China’s financial performance, it will surely receive strong responses,” Zhao Lijian, spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry, told reporters earlier this week. . “All consequences arising therefrom shall be borne by the United States”

Pelosi would be the highest-ranking U.S. lawmaker to visit Taiwan since Republican Newt Gingrich visited the island in 1997 when he was Speaker of the House. Biden told reporters last week that US military officials believe it was “not a good idea” for the speaker to travel to the island at this time.

John Kirby, a US national security spokesman, said Wednesday that it was important for Biden and Xi to touch each other regularly.

“The president wants to make sure the lines of communication with President Xi stay open because they need to,” Kirby told reporters during a White House briefing. “There are issues on which we can cooperate with China, and there are issues where there is obviously friction and tension.”

Biden and Xi last spoke in March, shortly after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“This is one of the most important bilateral relationships in the world today, with ramifications far beyond the two countries,” Kirby said.

Biden moved to shift U.S. reliance on Chinese manufacturing, including the Senate passing legislation on Wednesday to encourage semiconductor companies to build more high-tech factories. technology in the United States. Biden wants to mobilize global democracies to support infrastructure investment in low- and middle-income countries as an alternative to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which aims to boost China’s trade with other markets global.

Biden has kept Trump-era tariffs on many Chinese-made products in place to maintain his influence over Beijing. But he is considering whether to ease at least some of them to lessen the impact of soaring inflation on US households.

US officials have also criticized China’s ‘zero-COVID’ policy of mass testing and lockdown in a bid to contain the spread of COVID-19 in its territory, calling it misguided and fearing that it further slow global economic growth.

Other points of tension include China’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims, which the United States has declared genocide, its militarization in the South China Sea and its global campaign of economic and political espionage.

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Associated Press writers Ken Moritsugu and Joe McDonald contributed from Beijing.

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