US President Joe Biden has spoken with Chinese President Xi Jinping in a phone call for the first time in seven months.
The conversation between both leaders on Thursday, centered on “the responsibility of both nations to ensure competition does not veer into conflict,” a White House Statement revealed.
This, however, marks the second talk held between the two world powers, since President Biden took office.
US-China relations have been tense, with disagreements, escalating into clashes over issues like trade, espionage and the pandemic.
The White House Statement, added: “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.”
According to Beijing’s State Broadcaster CCTV, the conversation was “candid [and] in-depth, adding that the phone call covered “… exchanges on China-US relations 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 Mr Xi, according to the CCTV report.
Mr Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump had interacted more frequently with Mr Xi during his administration. Mr Trump spoke to Xi twice over the phone during the first six months in office. He also invited the Chinese President to Mar-a-Lago, Mr Trump’s private club for in-person talks.
Furthermore, what had elicited the need for the talks by President Biden was a result of ‘dissatisfaction’ over the unwillingness of lower level Chinese officials to hold substantive talks with his administration, a senior White House Official said on Friday, September, 10, 2021.
The White House Official added, “We have not been very satisfied with our interlocutors’ behaviour.
Issues that underlie US-China impasse
Accusing the Chinese of their unwillingness to engage in substantive talks for most of the times they had met, the official said: “We don’t believe that that is how responsible nations act, especially given the global importance of the US-China competition.”
Earlier this year, high-level discussions between the Biden administration and China were fraught with tension. These circumstances saw officials on both sides exchanging sharp rebukes.
Chinese officials had accused the US of inciting countries ‘to attack China’, while the US said China had ‘arrived intent on grandstanding’.
While one of the topmost issues that stands at the core of the US-China relations is trade, the disagreements also involve issues of human rights.
The US accuses China for its unfair and coercive trade practices as well as genocide against the Uighur population in the province of Xinjiang. The US also indicates that a recently introduced security law is being used by Beijing to trample on democratic rights in Hong Kong.
Meanwhile, China has repeatedly told the US to stop interfering in what it regards as its internal affairs. Beijing further accuses the US of painting the ruling Communist party black.
Apart from these, there are areas where both countries are at least in agreement. These include the climate crisis and the North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.
According to the White House Official, Thursday’s call was “not about finding some sort of breakthrough agreements.” Rather, it was… [to] keep the channels of communication open” and quell tensions that arose during previous discussions.
He added that, “our goal is to really reach a steady state of affairs between the United States and China.”