Issue Brief on “What does Biden-Xi Call Indicate about the China-U.S. Relations?”

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Background

On April 02, President Joe Biden and Xi Jinping held a telephone conversation to discuss China-U.S. relations. The call was the first high-level interaction between both presidents since the Woodside Summit in San Francisco in November 2023, and the first by phone since 2022.[1] Both sides agreed on maintaining cooperation for common issue areas including regional peace, military-to-military communication, counter-narcotics, addressing climate change, AI risks and people-to-people relations. Trade and technological competition persisted as areas of contention on both sides. The call came amid a number of steps indicating de-escalation.

The readouts from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the White House on the conversation between the two presidents differed significantly. The Chinese readout has been longer, with expressions including the much emphasized “San Francisco vision” and President Xi Jinping comparing the perception of China-U.S. relations “just like the first button of a shirt that must be put right”.[2] The readout from the Chinese side emphasized peace, stability and credibility, reiterated the U.S. commitment to “One-China Policy” and protested against imposition of sanctions on Chinese entities. Chinese comments on the high-tech sector were particularly stern, where President Xi Jinping stated that if the United States continues to impede China’s right to development “China is not going to sit back and watch.”

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