President Joe Biden held a phone call with Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leader Xi Jinping on July 28. The call was the fifth of its kind between Biden and Xi and lasted more than two hours.
The call occurred amid a myriad of tensions that have caused Sino–U.S. relations to fall to their lowest point in decades. Despite a decreasing willingness by the CCP to negotiate on most issues, the White House stated that it’s important to keep the lines of communication open between the two powers.
“This is one of the most consequential bilateral relationships in the world today, with ramifications well beyond both individual countries. The president clearly understands that, and we’re going to continue to work on that relationship.”
Biden is currently contending with the need to adequately address China’s status as a rising power while simultaneously mitigating the regime’s increasingly hostile behavior.
To that end, Xi’s conversation with Biden focused heavily on Taiwan.
A readout of the call released by the White House downplayed the exchange and said merely that the United States’ policy in recognizing the CCP as the sole entity governing China hasn’t changed.
“The call was a part of the Biden Administration’s efforts 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,” the readout said, referring to the acronym for the regime’s official name, the People’s Republic of China.
“On Taiwan, President Biden underscored that the United States policy has not changed and that the United States strongly opposes unilateral efforts to change the status quo or undermine peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.”
The CCP maintains that Taiwan is a breakaway province of China. Xi has vowed to unite the island with the mainland and hasn’t ruled out the use of force to do so. For its part, Taiwan has been self-governed since 1949, has never been under CCP control, and boasts a thriving democracy and market economy.
The United States doesn’t have formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan but is bound by a treaty to provide it with the arms necessary for its self-defense. The government also maintains a doctrine of “strategic ambiguity,” in which it will neither confirm nor deny whether it would defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion.
Tensions over the Taiwan issue grew over the past week amid speculation that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is planning a personal visit to the island nation.
Biden’s statements raised eyebrows from legislators and experts alike, who believed that they overstepped the bounds of both the president and the military in attempting to control the personal travel of a sitting member of Congress.
Pelosi said the administration may have believed that China would shoot down her plane if she visited Taiwan.
The back and forth was just one incident in a growing line of bellicose and, at times, hostile rhetoric emanating from the highest echelons of the CCP.