Biden and Xi hold call to discuss Taiwan, TikTok and fentanyl

The last time the two leaders spoke was during a California summit in November

US President Joe Biden and China's President Xi Jinping at the G20 Summit in Bali, in November 2022. AFP
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US President Joe Biden held a call with China's President Xi Jinping on Tuesday to discuss issues including maintaining peace across the Taiwan Strait.

It is the first call between the leaders since the met in November. The White House described the call, which lasted nearly two hours, as “candid and constructive”.

The leaders also addressed military communications and co-operation to curb the production of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is the leading cause of drug overdoses in the US.

“We believe there is no substitute for regular communication at the leader level to effectively manage this complex bilateral relationship and both presidents agree to pick up the phone and speak when needed,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters.

The call comes as the Biden administration seeks to de-escalate tensions with China, before the inauguration of Taiwan's President-elect Lai Ching-te in May. He has said he wants to preserve the island's de facto independence from China.

“President Biden emphasised the importance of maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and the rule of law and freedom of navigation in the South China Sea,” the White House said in a readout of the call.

The last time Mr Biden and Mr Xi met face to face was in November, during a summit in California.

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is set to arrive in China on Thursday, in a further push to improve relations. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to travel to China in the coming weeks.

During her trip, Ms Yellen is expected to press Chinese Premier Li Qiang and other officials on “unfair trade practices” and the global consequences of Chinese industrial overcapacity, the Treasury Department said.

She will also hold talks to address expanding co-operation on illicit finance, climate change and debt distress.

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said the leaders also the call to discuss TikTok, the Chinese-owned video-sharing app that harvests enormous amounts of user data.

US politicians passed a bill last month that could lead to the platform being banned in the country.

“TikTok came up today, yes,” Mr Kirby told reporters. “[Mr Biden] made it clear to President Xi that this was not about a ban of the application, but rather our interest in divestiture so that the national security interests and the data security of the American people can be protected."

During the call, Mr Biden raised concerns about China's “support for Russia’s defence industrial base”, according to the readout, as Moscow presses ahead with its invasion of Ukraine.

Updated: April 03, 2024, 5:14 AM