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Biden's "respectful" 3.5-hour virtual summit with China's Xi focuses on "managing strategic risks" like Taiwan

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President Biden "welcomed the opportunity to speak candidly and straightforwardly" with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday night, when the two leaders held a virtual summit. The White House said the men sat down for about 3.5 hours for a video call that was divided into two sections, with a break in the middle. 

According to the White House readout on the summit, Mr. Biden "underscored the importance of managing strategic risks" with China, and "he noted the need for common-sense guardrails to ensure that competition does not veer into conflict and to keep lines of communication open." 

President Biden Meets Virtually With China's President Xi Jinping
President Joe Biden listens while meeting virtually with Chinese President Xi Jinping, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., November 15, 2021. Sarah Silbiger/UPI/Bloomberg/Getty

A senior administration official told reporters after the presidents' meeting that while there had been no major breakthroughs, it was a "substantial back and forth" that was "respectful and straightforward and it was open." 

The official said Mr. Biden had explained America's concerns regarding China's "practices in Xinjiang, Tibet, and Hong Kong, as well as human rights more broadly," but noted that it was clear the two leaders had different world views.

On China's increasingly aggressive stance on self-governing Taiwan, Mr. Biden told Xi that the U.S. "strongly opposes unilateral efforts to change the status quo or undermine peace and stability," reiterating his administration's support for the "one China" policy.

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But Xi pushed back, according to Chinese state media, warning Mr. Biden that the U.S. would be "playing with fire" if it encouraged Taiwan to seek independence.

"Some people in the U.S. 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," Xi was quoted as saying by China's Xinhua news agency.

The Biden White House has reiterated America's commitment to help Taiwan defend itself from any aggression — while not recognizing the island as independent from China — in the wake of a record number of Chinese military flights into Taiwanese airspace.

Neither the Beijing Winter Olympics — to which the Biden administration has not yet said whether it will send any senior officials — nor broader visa issues came up during the conversation, the official said. Chinese officials, however, said Xi had agreed to upgrade a "fast track lane" to ease travel to China for U.S. business officials.

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Trade was "not a dominant part of the conversation," but Mr. Biden did stress to Xi that China must adhere to a "Phase One" agreement it reached under the previous administration in Washington. China has not yet fulfilled its commitment under that deal to buy $200 billion more in U.S. goods and services. Chinese officials said Xi had told Mr. Biden that it was important not to politicize the issue.

The Biden administration official would not say whether China's recent hypersonic missile test was discussed during the call.

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