WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden and Xi Jinping clashed in a telephone call on Tuesday about US trade restrictions on technology and on Taiwan, but they looked to manage their tensions, with two top US officials to head shortly to Beijing.

The telephone conversation was the two leaders’ first direct interaction since a summit in November in California that saw a marked thaw in tone, if not the long-term rivalry, between the world’s two largest economies.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will leave on Wednesday and visit both Guangzhou, the southern city emblematic of China’s manufacturing power, and Beijing, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken due in China in the coming weeks, officials said.

“Intense competition requires intense diplomacy to manage tensions, address misperceptions and prevent unintended conflict. And this call is one way to do that,” a US official said in a briefing to reporters.

The official said the talks were not aimed at resolving differences, and the two leaders were open about heated disagreements. Xi accused the United States of creating economic risks with Biden’s sweeping ban on high-tech exports.

“If the United States insists on suppressing China’s high-tech development and depriving China of its legitimate right to development, we will not sit idly by,” Xi warned, according to Chinese state media.

Biden rebuffed his appeal, with the White House saying he told him “the United States will continue to take necessary actions to prevent advanced US technologies from being used to undermine our national security, without unduly limiting trade and investment.”

The White House said Biden pressed Xi to ensure “peace and stability” across the Taiwan Strait ahead of the inauguration on May 20 of President-elect Lai Ching-te.

Published in Dawn, April 3rd, 2024

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