U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese Leader Xi Jinping Held Phone Call

On April 2nd, U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping held a phone call where they discussed various topics. China’s Foreign Affairs Ministry released a readout of the phone call that said Biden and Xi had a “candid and in-depth” conversation.

China’s Readout

The summary began by outlining that Xi had a phone call with Biden at his request and had “a candid and in-depth exchange of views on Sino-U.S. relations and issues of common concern to both sides.” Xi pointed out that both he and Biden launched the “San Francisco Vision” for the future and that teams from both sides implemented the consensus they reached during the summit. He also said that “Sino-U.S. relations have stabilized, which has been welcomed by all walks of life in both countries and the international community.” However, Xi also pointed out that “negative factors in the relations between the two countries have also increased, which require the attention of both parties.”

Xi then outlined four principles that both countries should adhere to during the year. The first principle is to “value peace, stick to the bottom line of no conflict and no confrontation, and constantly raise positive expectations for Sino-U.S. relations.” The second principle is to “focus on stability, not to make troubles, not to stir up troubles, not to cross boundaries, and to maintain the overall stability of Sino-U.S. relations. The third is that relations between China and the United States be “based on trust, fulfill their respective commitments with actions, and turn the “Vision of San Francisco” into “real reality.” Xi then explained that the fourth principle is that “both sides should strengthen dialogue with mutual respect, manage differences with a prudent attitude, promote cooperation in a spirit of reciprocity, and strengthen international coordination with responsibility.”

U.S. President Joe Biden (R) walking along side Chinese leader Xi Jinping (L) during San Francisco Summit in November 2023 (Photo: The New York Times via AP, Pool/Doug Mills)

He then “emphasized that the Taiwan issue is the first insurmountable red line in Sino-U.S. relations.” Xi then said that China “will not let the separatist activities and external connivance and support of the ‘Taiwan independence’ forces go unchecked.” China also hopes that the United States “will implement Mr. President’s positive statement of not supporting ‘Taiwanese independence’ into action.” He also said that the United States also began “an endless stream of measures” to curb China’s economy, science, technology, and trade, and that the list of sanctions against Chinese companies is increasing.

Xi pointed out that the measures the United States undertook are not “risk removal but the creation of risk.” However, Xi said that if the United States is “willing to carry out mutually beneficial cooperation and share the dividends of China’s development,” then China will always be open. However, Xi then said that 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.” The readout said that Xi “elaborated” on China’s position regarding Hong Kong, human rights, the South China Sea, and various other issues with Biden during the call.

The readout also briefly mentioned topics that Biden mentioned to Xi during the phone call. Biden said that “the U.S.-China relationship is the most far-reaching bilateral relationship in the world.” He then pointed out how progress in the two countries’ relationships “since the San Francisco meeting shows that both sides can actively advance cooperation while responsibly managing differences.” Biden reiterated that the United States “does not seek to engage in a ‘new Cold War,’ does not seek to change China’s system, does not seek to strengthen alliances against China, does not support ‘Taiwan independence,’ and has no intention of conflict with China.”

He also said that the United States “pursues” the one-China policy and that “China’s development is beneficial to the world.” Biden also stated that the country does not seek to “contain China’s development or ‘decouple’ from China.” He also said that the U.S. government is “willing to arrange for Treasury Secretary Yellen and Secretary of State Blinken to visit China in the near future.” The aim of the trip, Biden said, would be “to strengthen dialogue and communication with China, avoid miscalculations, promote cooperation, promote the stable development of bilateral relations, and jointly respond to global challenges.”

The readout also said that both Biden and Xi “exchanged views on the Ukraine crisis and the situation on the Korean Peninsula.”

Both Biden and Xi “believed that the phone call was candid and constructive and that the two sides agreed to continue to maintain communication and tasked the working teams of both sides to implement the ‘San Francisco Vision’s’ tasks.” They also said that the teams will “promote consultation mechanisms in the fields of commerce, diplomacy, economy, finance, and other fields.” The teams will also promote communications between the Chinese and U.S. militaries and carry out dialogue and cooperation in the fields of drug control, artificial intelligence, and climate change response.” They will also work to further increase “measures” to expand cultural and people-to-people exchanges between the two countries and “strengthen communication on international and regional issues.” The readout ends by saying that “China welcomes Treasury Secretary Yellen and Secretary of State Blinken’s recent visit to China.”

Analysis

The phone call between Biden and Xi is the first to occur in two years, with the last phone call between the two leaders occurring in July 2022. China’s readout of the phone call indicates that Xi used the call to both make points and signal to Biden about perceived issues in their countries’ relationship. The first point that Xi made is that while Sino-U.S. relations stabilized from November 2023 to now, there are still several negative factors that affect the relations. He also said that these issues need the attention of both parties to effectively solve them. Xi then explained how strategic cognition is the foundation of both countries’ relationship and how neither can exist without dealings, exchanges, conflict, and confrontation.

However, Xi proposed the four major principles that China and the United States should adhere to during the year to increase and stabilize relations. The principles from Xi’s point of view are needed because the United States’ actions destabilized the relationship by making or stirring up trouble. Furthermore, the principles will also increase the trust and mutual respect that, from the point of view of China, the United States lost due to its ‘actions.’

The readout also explained how Xi explained to Biden China’s stance on Taiwan and the United States’ enactment of sanctions through several comments. Xi reiterated China’s ‘pledge’ that the country will not let separatist activities or external forces that support Taiwanese independence continue unchecked. He also specifically said that the United States will implement Biden’s statement about not supporting Taiwanese independence. The reason why Xi made the comments about Taiwan is due to the United States providing continued military support and holding meetings between Taiwanese and U.S. officials.

Furthermore, China sees the continued U.S. support as external interference in a domestic issue between China and Taiwan, which the mainland sees as a rogue province. China also views U.S. ‘interference’ as the reason why other countries such as Australia, Estonia, and the United Kingdom are also increasing their support for Taiwan. These interactions go against China’s narrative that most countries “stand on the right side of history” on Taiwan. The interactions also go directly against China’s campaign against Taiwan to make the island’s remaining diplomatic allies switch recognition from Taiwan to China.

Xi’s comments about the endless list of sanctions against Chinese companies being meant to decrease China’s economy, science, technology, and trade are indicative that the sanctions are negatively affecting the four fields Xi mentioned. Xi’s comments about whether China will be open or will not idly sit by are likely a ‘carrot and stick’ approach to persuade Biden to remove sanctions. The comment about China will always be open if the United States will carry out mutually beneficial cooperation and share the dividends of China’s development is the ‘carrot’ and is aimed at both Biden and the business community. However, the comment that China will not sit idly by if the United States continues to suppress the country’s high-tech development and deprive China of its legitimate right to development is the ‘stick.’ Another reason why Xi made the comment is that the sanctions will prevent China from implementing the plan to increase its industries through high quality development and new quality productive forces.

Xi also signaled that China needs foreign investment over diplomatic meetings during the readout. The readout’s use of different names and the order of appearance of Yellen and Blinken highlights this point. For example, the statement names Yellen as Treasury Secretary, a less formal play on her formal title as Secretary of the Treasury. Contrast Yellen’s informal title with Blinken’s more formal title of Secretary of State that the readout used. While this could indicate Chinese officials view Blinken with more respect than Yellen, it is not the case because they want to show that Yellen is a ‘friend’ of China. The readout also lists Yellen first and then Blinken, indicating that they view Yellen with greater importance than Blinken. This aspect is important since they also used the more informal title for Yellen as well as listing her first.

Another signal that Xi sent to Biden is the phrasing of the readout used to describe Yellen and Blinken’s potential trip. The trip’s aim to avoid miscalculations, promote cooperation, and promote the stable development of bilateral relations was likely used to further emphasize what China’s seeks to gain from the meetings, specifically from Yellen’s visit. From China’s point of view, the promotion of cooperation and stable development of bilateral relations can be met if Yellen removes sanctions and other measures against Chinese companies. China also views Yellen’s visit as a means to avoid miscalculations by persuading her to prevent the Biden administration from enacting any additional sanctions.

Joaquin Camarena
Joaquin Camarena
Joaquin the panda began Sino Talk in 2022 primarily to give an objective, unbiased view on China related topics as well as other issues related to the Indo-Pacific region. He spent several years studying and traveling throughout China and many countries in the Indo-Pacific region. In another life, the panda was also a U.S. Marine intelligence analyst who enjoyed bamboo MREs and drinking bourbon and soju. Indo-Pacific Division Desk Chief for Atlas News.

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