PRESIDENT XI JINPING has had a 90-minute phone conversation with US President Joe Biden, only the second direct discussion between the two leaders since Biden took office and the first for seven months.
The Chinese readout on the call is more forthright than the United States’, implying that Xi told Biden that it was Washington’s responsibility to get the bilateral relationship back on track as it was US policy, driven by anxiety over China, that had escalated tensions. The White House version said both leaders had discussed the responsibility of both nations to ensure competition does not veer into conflict.
State media commentary on the call, which the United States initiated, reiterated the familiar line that Washington should take more action in correcting previous wrong deeds and respecting China’s interests, and not expecting China to cooperate while keeping it as an adversary.
However, news bulletins gave the conversation with Biden less prominence than Xi’s address to the BRICS summit.
The wide range of points of contention between the two countries, from human rights to trade, will not be resolved in a single call. However, the two leaders talking is a sign of some progress towards halting the deterioration in relations after the acerbic and unproductive talks between lower-level officials earlier this year.
These may now be able to resume.
The call may also prove to be a. preparatory step towards an in-person meeting between the two leaders, who met when Xi visited the United States in 2012 when Biden was vice-president, reciprocating Biden’s visit to China the year before.
There has been some hope that that meeting could occur during the G20 summit in Italy next month. However, Xi, who has not left China since visiting Myanmar in January 2020 when the global Covid-19 pandemic took hold, may attend the summit virtually.