Joe Biden has finally spoken with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, after seven months without talks, but the two leaders did not resolve key conflicts between their nations.
After seven months without talks, US President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping have finally sat down for a phone call. Speaking for 90 minutes, the two leaders spoke about trying to avoid competition leading to conflict between the two nations, however, there were key conflicts left off the agenda.
In a statement, the White House said: “The two leaders had a broad, strategic discussion in which they discussed areas where our interests converge, and areas where our interests, values, and perspectives diverge.
“This discussion, as President Biden made clear, was part of the United States’ ongoing effort to responsibly manage the competition between the United States and the PRC [People’s Republic of China].”
The US and China have been frequently butting heads on a number of key issues, with previous talks ending in tense rebukes.
Washington had said China had “arrived intent on grandstanding” while Beijing accused the US of provoking other countries “to attack China”.
Both economic superpowers have clashed over a number of issues, and during President Biden’s eight months in office have only spoken twice.
The pandemic, human rights and communication have all been top issues not settled between the two countries.
China’s growing nuclear arsenal is another worrying concern for the US, as well as trade and the South China Sea.
The US has repeatedly accused China of genocide against the Uyghur population in the province of Xinjiang.
Uyghurs are a Turkic ethnic group who originate from and are culturally affiliated with the region of Central and East Asia.
China has been accused by human rights groups of incarcerating more than one million Uyghurs at what the state calls “re-education camps”.
Other evidence has shown women being forcibly sterilised, prison sentences imposed and Uyghurs subjected to hard labour.
US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, has previously said China is committing “genocide and crimes against humanity”.
However China has denied all allegations of human rights abuse, and that in 2019 everyone was released from the “re-education camps”.
Beijing argues they have instead rooted out terrorism and Islamist extremism in Xinjiang.
The US has expressed concern about China’s growing nuclear arsenal on multiple occasions.
Satellite imagery has shown China seems to be building hundreds of silos to contain nuclear weapons.
In August, Mr Blinken held a meeting with foreign ministers of Asian countries and partner nation and made his concerns about China’s nuclear arsenal clear.
The State Department released a statement saying as well as serious concern about human rights abuses “the Secretary also noted deep concern with the rapid growth of the PRC’s [People’s Republic of China] nuclear arsenal which highlights how Beijing has sharply deviated from its decades-old nuclear strategy based on minimum deterrence.”
Washington has called on China to sign a new arms control treaty along with Russia, however Beijing has ignored the pleas.
South China Sea
The US has also accused China of “provocative” behaviour in the South China Sea, which Mr Jinping’s country lays claim to.
China claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea and faces counterclaims from Brunei, Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines.
On September 1, China imposed a revised law which means the China Maritime Safety Administration can order vessels to exit what it believes are territorial waters if a security threat is perceived.
However, the US has hit back and said “nothing will deter” it from sending naval ships into the South China Sea’s waterways.
This came after the USS Benfold sailed within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef, an area of rocks and islets claimed by China.
The presence of the guided-missile destroyer was met by fury from China, in what the US has dubbed “freedom of navigation operations”.
Senior Colonel Tian Junli, spokesman for the People’s Liberation Army Southern Theatre Command said: “The move of the US seriously violated China’s sovereignty and security.
“It is another ironclad proof of [American] navigation hegemony and militarisation of the South China Sea.
“Facts have repeatedly proved that the US is an out-and-out security risk-maker in the South China Sea and the biggest destroyer of peace and stability in this region.”
China has criticised the US for removing its troops from Afghanistan, with Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin this week saying their troops had “wreaked havoc”.
He also accused the US of inflicting “serious damage on the Afghan people”.
After the US withdrew its troops from Afghanistan, the Taliban has declared China to be its “main partner” in rebuilding the country.
China has now given at least $31m in emergency aid to Afghanistan, including medicines, winter supplies and Covid vaccines.
Washington and Beijing have been at loggerheads over trade for years, with tit for tat tariffs imposed since Donald Trump’s presidency in 2018.
Despite agreeing to a brief truce in June 2019 at the G20 trade summit in Japan, the tit for tat tariffs began again in August 2019.
In January 2020, China and the US signed the phase one trade deal, and tariffs began to be halved and agricultural imports were permitted to enter China from the US.
However, in September 2020, the US restricted cotton and apparel from Xinjiang, citing concerns over human rights and forced labour.