WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden spoke to China’s Xi Jinping on Thursday amid growing frustration on the U.S. side that the high-level engagement between the two leaders’ top advisers was largely unsuccessful at the start of the presidency Biden.
Biden launched the appeal with Xi, the second between the two leaders since Biden took office. It comes at a time when there is no shortage of thorny issues between the two nations, including cybersecurity breaches from China, Beijing’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and what the White House has called “coercive business practices.” and unfair ”.
But Biden’s goal with the 90-minute call was less focused on one of those burning issues and instead focused on discussing the way forward for US-China relations.
The White House said in a statement that “the two leaders had a broad strategic discussion in which they discussed areas where our interests converge and areas where our interests, values and perspectives diverge.”
The White House hopes the two sides can work together on issues of mutual concern, including climate change and preventing a nuclear crisis on the Korean Peninsula, despite growing differences.
Beijing, however, has pushed back on American pressure and has increasingly suggested it could remain broadly uncooperative until Biden reduces criticism on what it sees as internal affairs.
Xi appeared to echo some of the complaints, telling Biden that the US government’s policy towards China was causing “serious difficulties” in relations, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
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“It is not in the fundamental interest of the two peoples,” said the Chinese leader, according to Xinhua.
“The China-US confrontation will bring disaster to both countries and the world,” Xi added.
Xi said the two sides should cooperate on climate change, epidemic prevention, economic recovery and other issues, Xinhua reported.
The call came less than two weeks after the United States completed its withdrawal from Afghanistan, where China became interested in extracting raw materials.
It also came weeks after experts convened by the director of national intelligence reported they were unable to conclude whether the coronavirus had escaped from a lab or was the result of a mutation in the virus. in the animal population. The inconclusive nature of the review is sure to support competing theories about how the coronavirus emerged – and the extent to which Beijing, which has blocked access to key researchers, bears responsibility.
Before the call, a senior administration official said the White House was not happy with early engagements with the Chinese. The official, who was not authorized to comment publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity, said White House officials hoped Xi hearing directly from Biden might prove beneficial.
The official said Biden made it clear to Xi that he had no intention of straying from the administration’s policy of pressuring China over human rights, trade. and other areas where he believes China is acting outside international standards.
Biden stressed the importance of the two leaders’ ability to have private conversations and be clear about their priorities, the administration official said.
Since starting his presidency, Biden has sought to focus more on China, rallying his allies to speak with a more unified voice about Beijing’s human rights record, business practices and behavior. more and more assertive of his army which angered the American allies in the Pacific. He sees Beijing as the United States’ most important economic competitor and a growing concern for national security.
But the president also expressed hope that his long-standing working relationship with Xi, which dates back to when he was Barack Obama’s vice president, could bear fruit in cooperation on some critical issues. The two spent time remembering their travel time together when they were both vice presidents, the administration official said.
The White House said the leaders agreed to engage “openly and directly” on issues where nations disagree and where there is agreement.
“Without political will at the top of the two governments, any stabilization of the relationship, any progress towards work of mutual benefit like the climate or the pandemic, is impossible,” said Myron Brilliant, executive vice president and chief international officer in the USA. Chamber of Commerce. “It starts with the two leaders agreeing to a framework to work together on areas of common interest.”
Brilliant said the next phase of dialogue between the two leaders should “be supported by more concrete steps towards engagement in areas where the two sides also have differences and challenges,” such as trade and technology.
Information for this article was provided by Aamer Madhani and Joe McDonald of The Associated Press; and by Zolan Kanno-Youngs and David E. Sanger of the New York Times.