02 Apr 2024, 23:29

Biden, Xi clash but seek to manage tensions as US officials head to China

WASHINGTON, April  2, 2024 (BSS/AFP) - President Joe Biden and Xi Jinping

clashed in a telephone call Tuesday about US trade restrictions on technology
and on Taiwan, but they looked to manage their tensions, with two top US
officials to head shortly to Beijing.

The telephone conversation was the two leaders' first direct interaction
since a summit in November in California that saw a marked thaw in tone, if not
the long-term rivalry, between the world's two largest economies.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will leave Wednesday and visit both
Guangzhou, the southern city emblematic of China's manufacturing power, and
Beijing, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken due in China in the coming
weeks, officials said.

"Intense competition requires intense diplomacy to manage tensions, address
misperceptions and prevent unintended conflict. And this call is one way to do
that," a US official said in a briefing to reporters.

The official said the talks were not aimed at resolving differences, and
the two leaders were open about heated disagreements.
Xi accused the United States of creating economic risks with Biden's
sweeping ban on high-tech exports.

"If the United States insists on suppressing China's high-tech development
and depriving China of its legitimate right to development, we will not sit
idly by," Xi warned, according to Chinese state media.

Biden rebuffed his appeal, with the White House saying he told him "the
United States will continue to take necessary actions to prevent advanced US
technologies from being used to undermine our national security, without unduly
limiting trade and investment."

Xi, China's most powerful leader in decades, has solidified power at home
and taken a tough approach in Asia, with a crackdown on freedoms in Hong Kong
and assertive confrontations in recent weeks with the Philippines on the South
China Sea.

But US observers see Xi as eager to temper the friction with the United
States as China weathers rough economic headwinds.

At the California summit, he agreed to two key asks by the United States --
curbs on precursor chemicals to fentanyl, the synthetic painkiller behind a US
overdose epidemic, and restoring dialogue between the two militaries to manage
Xi may also see more opportunity for cooperation with Biden, who faces a
rematch in November's presidential election with Donald Trump, who has cast
China as an arch-enemy.

Biden has preserved or even accelerated some of Trump's tough measures, but
has also identified areas of common interest, such as fighting climate change.

- Raising alarm on Taiwan -

The White House said Biden pressed Xi to ensure "peace and stability"
across the Taiwan Strait ahead of the inauguration on May 20 of President-elect
Lai Ching-te.

China has denounced Lai, a longtime supporter of a separate identity for
the self-ruling democracy claimed by Beijing, but US officials have been
cautiously optimistic that China's military moves ahead of the inauguration
will not go beyond past practice.

In the phone call, Xi told Biden that Taiwan remains an "uncrossable red
line" for China, according to state media.

The United States has voiced growing alarm over rising Chinese moves
against the Philippines in the dispute-rife South China Sea.

The Biden administration, while maintaining dialogue with China, has put a
strong focus on supporting allies.

In the midst of the diplomatic flurry with China, Japanese Prime Minister
Fumio Kishida will pay a state visit to Washington next week, with Philippine
President Ferdinand Marcos joining for three-way talks.

Blinken also visited the Philippines last month where he reaffirmed US
commitments to defend the ally.

Blinken and Yellen will both be paying their second visit to China in less
than a year, marking a return to more routine interactions between the powers.

Blinken's trip last year was the highest-ranking by an American in five
years, following the Covid pandemic and soaring tensions under Trump.

The extensive diplomacy stands in contrast with Biden's approach to Russian
President Vladimir Putin, whom he has shunned since Moscow's invasion of

Biden raised concern about growing Chinese efforts to help Russia rebuild
its military-industrial base, calling it a risk for European security, the
White House said.



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