Joe Biden calls Xi Jinping directly after reportedly ineffective talks with lower-level Chinese officials

Going straight to the top.

Kayla Wong | September 10, 2021, 12:57 PM

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U.S. President Joe Biden initiated a call to Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday, Sep. 9 (U.S. time), marking the second time in seven months the two leaders are speaking to each other since Biden took office in January, according to Reuters.

Managing their rivalry so it doesn't spill over to conflict

The call was initiated by the U.S. side after Biden was reportedly frustrated at the lack of progress in bilateral discussions as lower-level Chinese officials have been reluctant to hold constructive conversations with his administration, CBS News reported.

Wanting to keep the channels of communication open, the phone call was meant to facilitate a conversation between both sides on managing their competition so it doesn't veer into conflict, a senior U.S. official said.

The U.S. also wanted to see if talking directly to Xi would be more effective for such discussions, considering Xi's consolidation of power.

The senior U.S. official had claimed that Chinese officials are simply regurgitating talking points in a bid to "perform for their bosses during their interactions" with their counterparts, and held no real ability to negotiate on behalf of their country.

He added that they are "trying to see if [the Americans] will blink".

Open & candid conversation

In a statement, the White House said both leaders agreed to engage on the issues they face "openly and straightforwardly".

As for China, state media Xinhua reported that the two leaders held a "candid" and "in-depth" communication on bilateral relations and issues of shared interest, according to Hong Kong public broadcaster RTHK.

State broadcaster CCTV had reported Xi as saying that the U.S.' China policy has placed great strain on their relations.

Xi had also reportedly said, "Whether China and the U.S. can properly handle their relations... is critical for the future and destiny of the world."

"And this is a question of the century that both countries must answer."

Only second time both talked since January

Both presidents have yet to meet face to face since Biden took office amid rapidly dwindling bilateral relations, where both countries had directed verbal attacks and criticisms towards the other side, as well as the slapping of tit-for-tat sanctions on each other's officials.

Exchanges between American and Chinese officials so far hadn't exactly been fruitful either.

Their first in-person meeting back in March in Anchorage, Alaska, had been frosty at best with both sides directing barbs at each other that targeted the other country's governance and human rights malpractices.

The U.S. had accused China of "grandstanding", while China had pointed out the systemic racism and violence in the U.S.

Top image by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

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