For the first time in seven months, US President Joe Biden spoke with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, encouraging them to ensure that "competition" between the two countries does not turn into "conflict."
According to a senior US administration official, Biden's message on the call on Thursday was that the US wants to guarantee that "the dynamic remains competitive" and that "we don't have any situation in the future where we veer into unintended conflict."
According to state media, Chinese President Xi reminded his American counterpart that US policies against Beijing have generated "serious difficulties" and that restoring relations is essential "to the world's destiny."
"Whether China and the US can properly handle their relations... is critical for the future and destiny of the world," Xi remarked, according to state broadcaster CCTV.
"And this is a question of the century that both countries must answer," Xi continued.
This was the first call between the two presidents since they spoke for two hours in February, shortly after Biden took over from Donald Trump. According to a Biden administration official, the most recent call lasted 90 minutes.
Trade war erupted under Trump
Relations between the United States and China have deteriorated under Trump, who has begun a trade war between the world's two largest economies.
While promoting multilateralism and an end to Trump's "America first" worldview, Biden's government has maintained trade tariffs and is tough on other sensitive areas of the relationship with Beijing.
The White House, on the other hand, has indicated that the diplomatic standoff is unsustainable and potentially dangerous, implying that the leaders will need to intervene in Thursday's call.
"We welcome stiff competition, but we don't want that competition to veer into conflict," the official told reporters on condition of anonymity.
The purpose of the call was to establish "guardrails" that would allow the connection to be "managed responsibly."
According to the official, these safeguards ensured that US actions were not "misinterpreted" by China.
Enraged exchange in Alaska
Lower-level attempts to interact with China have not gone well, particularly during an acrimonious March meeting in Anchorage, Alaska, between Secretary of State Antony Blinken and top Chinese officials.
"We have not been delighted with our interlocutors' behavior," the senior official told reporters.
"unwilling to engage in serious or substantive," the official said, accusing the Chinese of being large "we don't believe that that is how responsible nations act, especially given the global importance of the US-China competition." negotiations.
According to the official, when confronted with the standoff, "President Biden understood the importance of engaging President Xi directly."
Biden and Xi "discussed areas where our interests converge, and areas where our interests, values, and perspectives diverge." according to a White House readout following the discussion.
According to the official, the discussion on Thursday focused on "broad and strategic" concerns, with no firm decisions on unresolved issues or plans for a first Biden-Xi summit.
There are some issues where the two powers must cooperate or at the very least coordinate, such as North Korea's nuclear weapons program and the climate problem.
According to the White House, Biden and Xi discussed the Covid epidemic, climate change, and other global issues. Biden also raised concerns about Chinese cyber attacks on the US.
However, the call on Thursday was "not about finding some breakthrough agreements," according to the senior official.
It was all about "about keeping the channels of communication open" and breaking the relationship cycle going hot and cold in the past.
"Our goal is to really reach a steady state of affairs between the United States and China," the official stated.
Biden, who developed a close relationship with Xi while serving as Vice President under Barack Obama, plainly believes in the power of personal touch when it comes to diplomacy.
The two leaders spent considerable time talking about prior shared experiences, according to the senior US official, and the tone was "respectful" and "candid," without "lecturing."