WASHINGTON: The phone call lasted a long time—two hours and 17 minutes according to the White House—and the spin and content of the call differed widely in the readouts offered by the two sides.
According to Beijing, Chinese President Xi Jinping warned US President Joe Biden that “those who play with fire will burn themselves” during their first meeting in four months.
According to a more subdued version tweeted by Biden himself, he spoke to President Xi “as part of our efforts to deepen lines of communication, responsibly manage our differences and address issues of mutual interest.”
Not a word about fire or fire.
The fifth call between the two leaders since President Biden took office came amid lingering tensions over a possible visit to Taiwan by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Beijing sees it as a provocation and has warned of consequences. The US sees that as a threat to its sovereign right and has indicated that it will militarily protect Pelosi – who is second in line after the Oval Office after the Vice President – if she continues with the trip.
After the phone call, there didn’t seem to be a climb down from either side.
A White House readout of the call said the call was “part of the Biden administration’s efforts to preserve and deepen lines of communication between the United States and the People’s Republic of China and to responsibly manage our differences and work together.” to work where our interests are aligned”.
It said two presidents discussed a range of issues important to the bilateral relationship as well as other regional and global issues, and instructed their teams to continue today’s conversation, particularly to address climate change and health security.
The well-known ambivalence prevailed in Taiwan. Washington maintains a one-China policy while also promising to defend Taiwan if it comes under attack.
“President Biden underlined that United States policy has not changed and that the United States strongly opposes unilateral attempts to change the status quo or undermine peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait,” the statement said.