Biden and Xi agree to meet during call that focused on tension with Taiwan, economic anxiety

WASHINGTON – Tensions over Taiwan, Russia’s war in Ukraine and clashes over the economy dominated a call between President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping on Thursday.

The planned call between the leaders –  their first in more than four months – comes as the U.S. seeks to regain a competitive edge over China and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi considers a visit to Taiwan.

The call lasted more than two hours, according to the White House, reflecting the long and thorny agenda.

Xi and Biden agreed to meet face-to-face at a time that has yet to be determined, a U.S. official who briefed reporters after the call said.

President Joe Biden speaks about "The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022" in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, July 28, 2022.

The latest:

  • Catching up: Biden and Xi began their call at 8:33 a.m. ET, the White House said, and ended at 10:50 a.m.
  • Last call: They last spoke on March 18 and could see each other in person in November at the Group of 20 Summit, the G-20, in Indonesia.
  • Biden mum: Biden declined to take questions about the call from reporters at an economic event on Thursday afternoon.
  • White House readout: The White House released a statement on the call that said the leaders “discussed a range of issues,” including climate change and health security.
  • What the Chinese said: The Chinese government was the first of the two nations to readout the call between the leaders, saying in a statement that Xi discouraged Biden from focusing on the rivalry between the nations.
  • Competition legislation: One area of disagreement appeared to be the computer chips bill that Congress passed Thursday. It seeks to reduce U.S. manufacturing reliance on China, particularly for semiconductors. 
  • Differences over Taiwan: In its statement, China indicated that Taiwan was a significant topic of discussion during the call, with Xi reiterating the nation’s firm opposition against independence. 
  • What’s in dispute: Taiwan is a self-governed island that China considers part of its territory. The U.S. has long tried to navigate a murky middle ground that aims to support Taiwan without provoking China.
  • No change in policy: The White House suggested that Biden warned Xi against taking any action that would upend the status quo. 

What they are saying

  • Legislation in Congress aimed at increasing U.S. competition with China came up, according to the Chinese.
  • “Attempts at decoupling or severing supply chains in defiance of underlying laws would not help boost the U.S. economy. They would only make the world economy more vulnerable,” China’s statement said.
  • The harshest rhetoric was reserved for Taiwan, with the Chinese declaring that “public opinion cannot be defied” on the issue and stating, “Those who play with fire will perish by it.”
  • “It is hoped that the U.S. will be clear-eyed about this. The U.S. should honor the one-China principle and implement the three joint communiqués both in word and in deed,” the statement said. 
  • A U.S. official declined to “parse the various metaphors” that China has used on Taiwan.
  • Biden administration officials also stressed that the legislative branch is a separate and co-equal branch of government.
  • White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the leaders had a “direct, straightforward conversation.”
  • Jean-Pierre stressed during her daily press briefing that Biden won’t tell Pelosi if she should travel to Taiwan or not.
  • “The president was a member of Congress for 36 years. He understands what that means. And he knows that he cannot say, tell a member of Congress, what they can or cannot do,” Jean-Pierre said.
  • Biden did not preview potential action on the Trump-era tariffs on China during the call, the U.S. official said.
A man reads the books "Xi Jinping: The Governance of China" at a booth during the annual book fair in Hong Kong, Wednesday, July 20, 2022. The Hong Kong Book Fair will be held on July 20-26. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung) ORG XMIT: XKC115

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TOPSHOT - China's President Xi Jinping waves following his speech after a ceremony to inaugurate the city's new leader and government in Hong Kong on July 1, 2022, on the 25th anniversary of the city's handover from Britain to China. (Photo by Selim CHTAYTI / POOL / AFP) (Photo by SELIM CHTAYTI/POOL/AFP via Getty Images) ORIG FILE ID: AFP_32DL269.jpg