Taiwan is a part of China and the 1.4 billion Chinese will not tolerate any challenges to the country’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity, President Xi Jinping told his U.S. counterpart, Joe Biden, in a phone call on Thursday. Xi’s warning comes amid reports that U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is preparing to visit the island next month, something China has warned her against.
Xi told his counterpart: Those who play with fire will perish by it. It is hoped that the U.S. will be clear-eyed about this.
Xi and Biden spoke via telephone for over two hours on Thursday at a juncture of increased tension between China and the U.S. due to the security situation around the Taiwan Straits and Pelosi’s reported plan to visit the island of Taiwan. Xi spoke with Biden on the phone at the request of the latter.
Xi “highlighted that the historical ins and outs of the Taiwan question are crystal clear, and so are the fact and status quo that both sides of the Taiwan Strait belong to one and the same China,” according to Beijing’s readout of Thursday’s call, also noting that Biden was the one who initiated it.
China is firmly opposed to Taiwanese separatism and will not tolerate “independence” for the island “in whatever form,” Xi told Biden, in the first direct call between the two leaders since March 18.
According to the readout, Xi also told Biden that the U.S. approach to China as the primary rival, strategic competitor, and a security challenge “would be misperceiving China-US relations and misreading China’s development,” adding that U.S. attempts at “decoupling or severing supply chains in defiance of underlying laws” would not help its economy, but “only make the world economy more vulnerable.”
China and the U.S. need to “uphold the international system centering on the UN and the international order underpinned by international law,” said Xi, who also “reiterated China’s principled position” on the crisis in Ukraine.
The much shorter White House readout of the call did not mention Ukraine or the specifics of economic discussions, instead singling out the issues of “climate change and health security.”
It did, however, say that the call was “part of the Biden administration’s effort to maintain and deepen lines of communication between the United States and the PRC and responsibly manage our differences and work together where our interests align.”
When it comes to Taiwan, Biden “underscored that the U.S. policy has not changed and that the U.S. strongly opposes unilateral efforts to change the status quo or undermine peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait,” according to the White House.
Tensions between China and the U.S. have escalated in recent weeks, after reports that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) intended to take a congressional delegation to Taiwan in August.
Pelosi has neither confirmed nor denied the trip. Asked about it earlier this month, Biden said the U.S. military thought it was “not a good idea right now.”
Since then, however, the Pentagon has reportedly developed a “contingency plan” to send additional ships and fighter jets to the region. Meanwhile, Chinese officials threatened the U.S. with “unbearable consequences” should Pelosi go forward with her visit, and some pundits even advocated attacking Taiwan in response to such a “provocation.”
Taiwan has been ruled by the nationalist Kuomintang, who found refuge on the island after losing the civil war to the Communists in 1949 and leaving the mainland with U.S. help.
During the conversation with Xi, Biden reiterated that the one-China policy of the U.S. has not changed and will not change, and that the U.S. does not support “Taiwan independence.”
Xi pointed out that in the world today, the trends of turbulence and transformation are evolving, and deficits in development and security are looming large. Faced with a world of change and disorder, the international community and people around the world expect China and the U.S. to take the lead in upholding world peace and security and in promoting global development and prosperity. This is the responsibility of China and the U.S. as two major countries.
Biden said that the world is at a critical moment. U.S.-China cooperation benefits not only the two peoples but also people of all countries. The U.S. hopes to keep an open line of communication with China to enhance mutual understanding and avoid misperception and miscalculation, and will work with China where the interests of the two countries align and, at the same time, properly manage differences.
Both Presidents viewed their call as candid and in-depth. They agreed to stay in touch and instructed the two teams to keep up communication and cooperation.