Biden and Xi Jinping hold phone call ahead of Yellen’s trip to China

Biden and Xi Jinping hold phone call ahead of Yellen’s trip to China

U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping before a meeting during Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders Week in Woodside, California, November 15, 2023.

Brendan Smialowski | Afp | Getty Images

President Joe Biden spoke by phone with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday, a call the White House described as an opportunity for the two leaders to “check in” and responsibly manage the strained U.S.-China relationship.

“Intense competition requires intense diplomacy to manage tensions, address miscalculations and prevent inadvertent conflicts,” a senior administration official said in a call with reporters on Monday. “This call is one way to do that.”

During the call with Xi, the first such phone meeting since July 2022, Biden planned to raise a number of American concerns, the official said.

These include the two superpowers’ economic ties, tensions over Taiwan, China’s support of Russia in its invasion of Ukraine and growing cybersecurity threats, particularly in the run-up to the US presidential election in November.

The last time Biden and Xi met in person was in November on the sidelines of a summit in Woodside, California.

There, leaders agreed to resume military communications between the US and China. Since then, there have been several significant meetings and discussions between military leadership, with more expected later this year, the Biden administration official said.

On Wednesday, Biden’s top economic envoy, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, is scheduled to leave for China for five days of face-to-face meetings with her counterparts in Guangzhou and Beijing. Secretary of State Antony Blinken also plans to visit China later this year.

“The U.S.-China economic relationship is undoubtedly on firmer footing now than it was two years ago,” a senior Treasury Department official said Monday in a news conference previewing Yellen’s trip. “We recognize that there are significant challenges and disagreements in this relationship and that these cannot be resolved overnight.”

In a speech last week, Yellen warned of her concerns about China’s overproduction of clean energy products such as solar panels, electric vehicles and lithium-ion batteries. She said China is using that surplus to flood global markets and undercut prices in green industries that are still developing in countries like the United States.

Yellen said this was one of the issues she wanted to confront her Chinese counterparts about during her visit. The Chinese embassy in Washington later denied that there was excess capacity.

In recent weeks, the Treasury Department has also raised concerns about Beijing’s financial practices, particularly China’s alleged use of “early-stage” investments in U.S. technology companies as a means to access sensitive data.

Meetings like the one Yellen plans to hold are part of the Biden administration’s overall effort to stabilize relations between the superpowers after a years-long communications freeze. That collapse began with the Trump-era tariffs that sparked a near trade war and continued after Biden imposed his own trade restrictions on the country.

“Going back to the meeting last November, both President Biden and President Xi agreed that they would try to pick up the phone a little bit more,” the senior administration official said. “Both sides recognize that this is important to truly make relationships more responsible.”

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2024-04-02 15:35:51