Joe Biden and Xi Jinping

Biden and Xi end seven-month gap in direct communication


United States President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping held their first call in seven months on Thursday (Sept.9). A White House Statement said the leaders of the world’s two biggest economies had “discussed the responsibility of both nations to ensure competition does not veer into conflict”.

The discussion lasted about 90 minutes. Biden spoke about Washington’s “enduring interest in peace, stability, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific and the world” as part of its “ongoing effort to responsibly manage the competition” with China.

The White House also described the conversation as “broad” and “strategic.” Chinese state media CCTV reported the conversation was “candid” and “in-depth”, adding that it had covered “extensive strategic communication and… issues of mutual concern”.

“Whether China and the US can properly handle their relations… is critical for the future and destiny of the world,” said Xi, according to the CCTV report.

Xi also told Biden that America’s policy towards China has caused “serious difficulties” for the countries’ relations, Xinhua news reported.

“If China and the US work together, both countries and the world will benefit; If China and the US confront each other, both countries and the world will suffer. China-US relation is not a choice question that whether it needs to be done well, but a required question that how to do it well,” Xi said, according to the Xinhua report.

The American president initiated the call with Xi, and is only the second call between the two leaders since Biden took office. In the seven months since then, the U.S. has accused China of human rights violations, imposed sanctions and warned businesses about operating in Hong Kong.

The call also comes at a moment when the two economic giants are grappling with growing differences over the origins of Covid-19, human rights, cyberattacks and trade. There are also tensions over Afghanistan and South China Sea.

Earlier this year, high-level talks between Washington and Beijing were fraught with tension – with officials on both sides  trading diplomatic barbs that are rarely displayed in front of the cameras.

“The goal to reduce tensions and agree on areas where the two sides need to work together can only really be advanced by the two leaders talking,” the Wall Street Journal quoted U.S. Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President Myron Brilliant as saying.

American and Chinese officials have both talked about a possible face-to-face meeting between the leaders, with one likely opportunity being the Group of 20 nations meeting in Rome in late October.

Asian currencies and share markets strengthened on Friday (Sept.10) , as investors speculated that the call could lead to some thaw in relations between the two most important trading partners for economies in the region.

With reporting by WSJ, Xinhua, CCTV