Chinese President Xi Jinping and his American counterpart Joe Biden held a lengthy phone call in which the leader of Beijing warned the United States against interfering in China’s relations with Taiwan and the split of the two most the world’s major economies, officials said.
During the unusually long three-hour call, there was no indication of progress on trade, technology or other issues, including Beijing’s opposition to a possible visit by the president of the United States House, Nancy Pelosi, in the island democracy, which the mainland claims as its territory.
Businessmen and economists warn that such a shift prompted by Chinese industrial policy and U.S. restrictions on tech exports could harm the global economy by slowing innovation and driving up costs.
Meanwhile, Xi and Biden are considering the possibility of meeting in person, according to a US official who declined to be further identified. Xi was invited to Indonesia in November for a meeting of the Group of 20 major economies, making it a potential venue for a face-to-face encounter.
The Chinese government has given no indication that Xi and Biden discussed possible plans for Pelosi to visit Taiwan, which the ruling Communist Party says has no right to conduct foreign relations. But Xi rejected “interference from outside forces” that could encourage Taiwan to try to make its decades-old de facto independence permanent.
“Resolutely safeguarding China’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity is the firm will of more than 1.4 billion Chinese people,” the statement said. “Those who play with fire will perish by it.”
One China principle, but which government is in charge?
The harsh language of Xi, who usually tries to appear above political strife and makes blandly positive public comments, suggested Chinese leaders may believe Washington has failed to understand the seriousness of previous warnings about Taiwan.
Taiwan and China separated in 1949 following a civil war that ended in a communist victory on the mainland. They have no official relations but are linked by billions of dollars in trade and investment. Both sides say they are one country but disagree on which government is entitled to national leadership.
A Defense Department spokesman said ahead of Thursday’s call that Washington “must not arrange Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan.” He said the armed wing of the ruling People’s Liberation Army would take “strong measures to thwart any outside interference”.
Xi called on the United States to “honor the one-China principle,” the statement said, referring to Beijing’s position that the mainland and Taiwan are one country. The United States, on the other hand, has a “one China policy” which says that Washington takes no position on the issue but wants to see it resolved peacefully.
“Both sides of the Taiwan Strait belong to one and the same China,” the statement said.
The statement quoted Biden as saying that Washington does not support Taiwan independence.
Conflict over Pelosi’s visit
On Friday, coverage of the conversation in China’s fully state-controlled media was limited to repeating government statements.
Pelosi has yet to confirm whether she will travel to Taiwan, but if she does, the California Democrat would be the highest-ranking US lawmaker to visit since President Newt Gingrich in 1997.
Beijing criticized Gingrich for saying the United States would defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese attack, but did nothing else in response to his three-hour visit to the island.
Since then, China’s stance on Taiwan has hardened as the mainland’s economy has become the second largest after the United States.
The ruling party has invested hundreds of billions of dollars in the development of fighter jets and other high-tech weapons, including ‘aircraft carrier’ missiles meant to prevent the US Navy from helping to defend the ‘island.
The dispute over a possible Pelosi visit is more sensitive in Beijing in a year when Xi, who came to power in 2012, is expected to try to break with tradition and give himself a third five-year term as party leader.
Dividing savings could slow innovation and increase costs
Xi, who wants to be seen as restoring China’s historic role as a world leader, has promoted a more assertive overseas policy. The PLA has sent increasing numbers of fighter jets and bombers flying near Taiwan in an effort to intimidate its democratically elected government.
The United States has no official relations with Taiwan, but maintains extensive commercial ties and informal political relations. Washington is obligated by federal law to ensure that Taiwan has the means to defend itself.
Xi called for cooperation to reduce the risk of economic recession, coordinate macroeconomic policies, fight COVID-19 and “defuse regional hotspots”, according to the government statement.
He also warned against decoupling or separating the US and Chinese economies for strategic reasons.
Businessmen and industry analysts have warned that global industries could be split into separate markets with incompatible products due to China’s pressure on its own companies to develop their own technology standards. and US restrictions on Chinese access to technology that Washington considers a security risk. This could slow innovation and increase costs, they think.
“Attempts to uncouple or sever supply chains in defiance of underlying laws would not help stimulate the U.S. economy,” the statement said. “They would only make the global economy more vulnerable.”