New Delhi: US President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping had a heated exchange over Taiwan, but also reached some agreements on a presidential hotline, military communication and fentanyl production in their first face-to-face talks in a year on Wednesday. The two leaders met virtually for about four hours to discuss the issues that have strained US-China relations. They covered a range of topics, from human rights to artificial intelligence, but Taiwan emerged as the most contentious issue.
Xi warned Biden not to support Taiwan’s independence and asserted China’s determination to achieve reunification with the island, which Beijing claims as its territory. He said China preferred peaceful reunification, but also outlined the conditions under which force might be used.
Biden reaffirmed the US commitment to maintaining peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait and urged China to respect Taiwan’s electoral process. He also told reporters later that he had not changed his view that Xi is a dictator. “President Xi responded ‘Look, peace is all well and good, but at some point we need to move towards resolution more generally’,” a US official quoted Xi as saying.
Despite the clash over Taiwan, the two leaders also made some progress on other areas of cooperation. They agreed to establish a presidential hotline, resume military-to-military contacts that China severed last year, and work to curb fentanyl production, a leading cause of drug overdoses in the US.
Biden said he and Xi agreed to high-level communications. “He and I agreed that each one of us can pick up the phone call directly and we’ll be heard immediately.”
China agreed to target specific chemical companies that make fentanyl precursors, a move that the US welcomed but said it would closely monitor. “It’s going to save lives,” Biden said, adding he appreciated Xi’s “commitment” on the issue. The two leaders also agreed to get experts together to discuss the risks of artificial intelligence.
The summit came after a rocky period in US-China relations that worsened after a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon transited the US and was shot down by a US fighter jet in February.
The White House said Biden raised areas where Washington has concerns, including detained US citizens, human rights in Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong and Beijing’s aggressive activities in the South China Sea.
“Just talking, just being blunt with one another so there’s no misunderstanding,” Biden said. Biden also asked Xi to use his influence with Iran to urge Tehran not to launch not to launch proxy attacks on U.S. targets in the Middle East as the Israel-Hamas conflict continues in Gaza.