As tensions rise between China and Taiwan, China’s president and his US counterpart agreed in a long phone call on Thursday to meet in person in the future.
Xi Jinping and Joe Biden considered meeting face-to-face during a phone call that lasted more than two hours on Thursday (July 28), despite tensions over Taiwan of the Chinese president to warn his American counterpart not to “play with fire” .
According to an American official who requested anonymity, the two men, who have not met face to face since Joe Biden came to power, “agreed that their teams will try to find a time to agree on each other to do it”. However, no timetable has been announced.
Both sides described the phone call, the fifth virtual meeting between the two leaders, as “frank”, a diplomatic term that means disagreements between the two countries remain numerous. The New China agency reported that the Chinese president issued a warning to Joe Biden about Taiwan, which Beijing considers part of its territory to be taken back, by force if necessary.
“Those who play with fire will be burned,” the Chinese president warned, echoing comments made by the American president during their last meeting in November. “I hope the American side fully understands this,” added Xi Jinping, as Beijing threatened several days of “consequences” if the head of the American representatives Nancy Pelosi implements her plan to visiting Taiwan.
An American position that has not changed since the 1970s
For his part, the American president emphasized that the position of the United States on Taiwan “has not changed”, according to the White House. The United States has recognized the Chinese regime since 1979, according to the principle of “one China” whose capital is in Beijing. They do not officially recognize Taiwan, while supporting the island militarily.
Joe Biden added that “the United States objected[ai]strongly supports unilateral efforts to change the status or threaten the peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait,” the US executive added in a statement. against any official contact between Taiwan and other state, and therefore against the potential visit of Nancy Pelosi.
Although US officials regularly visit Taiwan, Beijing considers the trip by Nancy Pelosi, one of the top US state figures, a major provocation. General Mark Milley, the US Chief of Staff, told the press that if Nancy Pelosi asked for “military support” she would “do what is necessary to ensure a safe conduct. [de ses affaires]”.
Status quo on tariffs
The tensions surrounding this trip are only part of the problem. US officials fear that President Xi is considering using force to impose control over Taiwan. When deemed unlikely, an invasion, or other form of military action, was increasingly seen by observers as possible.
Joe Biden’s contradictory statements on Taiwan – he said in May that the US would defend the island, before the White House insisted that the “strategic ambiguity” policy had not changed – did not help. According to the White House, the main purpose of Joe Biden in this telephone interview is to establish “safeguards” for the two superpowers, to avoid an open conflict despite their differences and in their geopolitical rivalry.
No progress has been made on the issue of the 25% tariff imposed on billions of dollars of Chinese goods by former President Donald Trump, which Joe Biden may raise to fight inflation in the United States. “On the issue of tariffs, President Biden explained to President Xi […] the core issue of China’s unfair trade practices that hurt American workers and hurt American families, but he didn’t mention the potential actions he could take,” the US official told reporters .