Biden Xi
(U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping)

China’s Xi tells Biden not to ‘play with fire’ on Taiwan

Chinese President Xi Jinping warned against playing with fire over Taiwan in two-hour-long call with U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday (July 28), Reuters reported.

“Those who play with fire will perish by it,” China’s foreign ministry quoted Xi as telling the 46th president of the US in their fifth call as leaders. “It is hoped that the U.S. will be clear-eyed about this.” Xi emphasized that Beijing strongly opposes “Taiwan Independence” and foreign meddling in the country’s sovereignty.

“On Taiwan, President Biden underscored that the United States policy has not changed and that the United States strongly opposes unilateral efforts to change the status quo or undermine peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait,” a US readout read.

Tensions over Taiwan have increased ahead of a rumoured plan for US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi to visit the island. The US State Department says Pelosi has not announced any travel, but China has warned of “serious consequences” if she were to proceed with such a visit. A visit by Pelosi would be a dramatic, though not unprecedented, show of US support for Taiwan.

Apart from Taiwan, the two leaders discussed a range of other issues, including the Ukraine crisis, with Xi reiterating China’s principled stance on the issue. According to the Chinese president, viewing China as a “strategic competitor” and referring to it as a “strategic rival” is a miscalculation of US-China relations that may mislead the people of both countries as well as the international community.

The White House said the call was part of the administration’s efforts to deepen lines of communication with China and “responsibly manage our differences.” No big announcement was made immediately after the call. A senior U.S. official said Biden and Xi had discussed the possibility of holding a first face-to-face meeting as leaders and directed their teams to look into this.

With reporting by Reuters, CNN, The Guardian