Biden and Xi Speak for First Time Since November

The president pressed Xi on fentanyl chemicals, CCP interference in U.S. elections, and Chinese-backed cyberattacks on U.S. facilities, an official said.
Biden and Xi Speak for First Time Since November
President Joe Biden addresses the Baltimore bridge collapse in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on March 26, 2024. (Pedro Ugarte/AFP via Getty Images)
Andrew Thornebrooke

President Joe Biden on April 2 held a phone call with Chinese communist leader Xi Jinping as tensions between Washington and Beijing remain elevated.

The call is the first contact between the two leaders since meeting in Woodside, California, last November and is their first phone call since July 2022.

“At Woodside, the two leaders agreed to maintain regular open lines of communication to responsibly manage competition and prevent unintended conflict,” a senior Biden administration official said. “This phone call really is just part of that ongoing effort.”

The official described the call as a “check-in” and added that there would not likely be any major breakthroughs or announcements.

“Don’t anticipate new outcomes from this,” the official said. “This is kind of what the responsible management of the relationship looks like in between those top-level senior level meeting that can occur about once a year”

The official added that President Biden and Xi would nevertheless connect on key issues such as the international narcotics trade and artificial intelligence development.

“We have not changed our approach to [China], which remains one focused on the framework of ‘invest, align, and compete,’” the official said.

“Intense competition requires intense diplomacy to manage tensions, address misperceptions, and prevent unintended conflict. And this call is one way to do that.”

Notably, the official said President Biden would follow up on Xi’s promise to stem the tide of chemicals from China into Mexico, where they are used to make fentanyl that is then smuggled into the United States.

The official said that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which Xi heads, had taken some actions to limit that trade, but has failed to criminalize key chemicals used in the manufacture of synthetic opioids.

“We have seen [China] implement some initial measures to restrict and disrupt the flow of certain precursor chemicals used to produce illicit synthetic drugs but, of course, the drug trade is continually evolving and changing,” the official said.

“In order to ensure that we are disrupting the trade flow, we the U.S. and China need to maintain close consultations, both law enforcement to law enforcement at the technical level…”

Another key point of conversation is the CCP’s role in supporting destabilizing violence abroad through its support of Iran and Russia, the official said.

The regime is helping “Russia reconstitute its defense industrial base” as Moscow conducts its war in Ukraine and the White House was “concerned that this action will impact longer-term European security,” the official said.

“We’ve really seen [China] start to help to rebuild Russia’s defense industrial base, essentially backfilling the trade from European partners, helping provide the components that get up slowly towards increasing Russia’s capabilities in Ukraine.

“That has, of course, longer-term impacts on European security as well.”

The official added that President Biden would press Xi on CCP interference in U.S. elections and Chinese state-backed cyberattacks on critical U.S. infrastructure.
Last week, the Biden administration imposed sanctions and announced charges against Chinese state actors over an expansive hacking attempt that impacted thousands globally, including high-ranking officials, political candidates, and entities from “some of America’s most vital critical infrastructure sectors,” officials said.

U.S. authorities accused APT31—a hacking group they identified as an arm of China’s Ministry of State Security—of waging a nearly 14-year-long hacking operation that has resulted in the confirmed and potential compromise of personal and work email accounts, online storage accounts, and telephone call records belonging to millions of Americans.

The United States revealed earlier this year that it had eradicated Chinese malware from more than 600 routers associated with critical U.S. infrastructure. That malware targeted water, gas, energy, rail, air, and ports. A February advisory by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency warned that China’s communist regime is pre-positioning malware in U.S. systems in preparation for a major conflict.

President Biden also raised concerns about American citizens wrongfully detained or under an exit ban in China, National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters after the call.

Mr. Kirby added that the two leaders also discussed the Chinese-owned social media app TikTok, which could be banned from the United States if legislation under consideration in the Senate is passed.

“TikTok came up today, yes,” Mr. Kirby said.

“The president reiterated our concerns about the ownership of TikTok.”

Security experts have long warned that TikTok, owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, is a weaponized application that could be used to promote Chinese Communist Party (CCP) propaganda or feed Americans’ data directly to the regime. President Biden has said he would sign the House-passed bill that could ban TikTok if clears Congress.
Eva Fu contributed to this report. 
Andrew Thornebrooke is a national security correspondent for The Epoch Times covering China-related issues with a focus on defense, military affairs, and national security. He holds a master's in military history from Norwich University.
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