Interference in Taiwan is 'playing with fire', Xi Jinping warns Joe Biden
- The conversation lasted longer than expected
- Xi warned Biden that encouraging Taiwanese independence would be "playing with fire"
- The White House response to the summit was more measured
At a virtual summit aimed at establishing "guardrails" against conflict between their rival superpowers, US President Joe Biden and China's Xi Jinping traded strong warnings about the future of Taiwan.
A senior US official told reporters that the video-link summit, which happened late Monday in Washington and early Tuesday in Beijing, lasted "longer than expected". "The conversation was respectful and straightforward."
While the goal was to calm an increasingly tense relationship between the world's two largest economies and geopolitical rivals, tensions over Taiwan, China's self-governing democracy, loomed large.
Following the summit, Chinese state media reported that Xi warned Biden that encouraging Taiwanese independence would be "playing with fire".
"Some people in the US intend to 'use Taiwan to control China.' This trend is very dangerous and is like playing with fire, and those who play with fire will get burned," he was quoted as saying by Xinhua news agency.
The White House response to the summit was more measured, but Biden's pushback against Beijing's increasingly aggressive posture toward Taiwan was clear between the lines.
"On Taiwan, President Biden underscored that the United States... strongly opposes unilateral efforts to change the status quo or undermine peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait," the White House statement said.
The statement reaffirmed US policy, which does not recognise Taiwan's independence but continues to support the island's defence.
According to a US official who did not want to be identified, the summit included "extended discussion of Taiwan".
Biden also expressed "concerns" about broader issues of human rights violations and human rights violations of Uyghurs in Xinjiang's northwest region.
Since Biden's swearing - in ceremony in January, the two leaders have spoken on the phone twice, but with Xi refusing to travel abroad due to the pandemic, an online video meeting was the only option short of an in-person summit.
The White House made it clear that it did not expect or receive any concrete changes as a result of the summit. Instead, the goal was to build on previous interactions with Xi in order to manage a relationship that was too crucial to fail.
Speaking from the White House to Xi on a television screen, Biden said it was their "responsibility as leaders of China and the United States to ensure that the competition between our countries does not veer into conflict, whether intended or unintended."
"We need to establish some common sense guardrails," he said.
Instead, Biden said, the goal should be "simple, straightforward competition," promising a "frank" discussion.
Xi, speaking from Beijing, referred to Biden as "my old friend," but stated that their countries needed to work more closely together.
"We face multiple challenges together. As the world's two largest economies and permanent members of the UN Security Council, China and the United States need to increase communication and cooperation," he said.