China Suggests US Is 'Playing With Fire'

Biden and Xi Jinping talk by phone
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 28, 2022 3:12 PM CDT
After Biden-Xi Talk, China Warns About 'Playing With Fire'
This combination image shows President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping.   (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, Eraldo Peres, File)

President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping talked for more than two hours on the phone Thursday against a backdrop of increasing tension between their nations over several issues. The US said the idea of the call was to calm the hostility more than to achieve anything specific, the New York Times reports. But tension apparently remains. After the call, China's Foreign Ministry called the talk productive but added a blunt warning about US actions in general, not mentioning any specific flashpoint. "Playing with fire will set yourself on fire," the statement said.

One of the pressing points of contention is House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's possible trip to Taiwan, a provocation from China's point of view. The trip isn't confirmed, but Pelosi has invited other members of Congress to go with her. It would be the first time a House speaker has gone to Taiwan in 25 years. The administration isn't enthusiastic about the trip, either, and Biden has said the Pentagon considers it bad timing; Xi is up for another term in Communist Party congress this fall, and he might face pressure to respond forcefully to a provocation. The Defense Department is preparing to move forces in the region and otherwise prepare for problems if Pelosi does go.

Other issues include China's resistance to helping the West freeze out Russia over the war in Ukraine and tariffs imposed on China by former President Trump that Biden is thinking about dropping. The White House report on the call said Biden emphasized that US policy on Taiwan hasn't changed and that the US still opposes any effort that might "undermine peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait," per CNN. The call was planned before the Pelosi flap. Biden and Xi hadn't talked in four months, per the Times, and American officials have expressed a desire to keep the two leaders talking to keep any small conflicts from turning into large ones. (Read more US-China relations stories.)

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