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Biden chats with Xi amid low point in US-China ties

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WASHINGTON In their first conversation in seven months, President Biden held talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday, expressing concern over China’s cyber activities while saying the leaders of the world’s two largest economies could do more. aside their differences to work together on climate change.

The call was a break in what experts have called one of the lowest points in relations between the two countries in decades. It was only the second time that the leaders spoke since the inauguration of Mr. Bidens; the lack of communication is a measure of the growing tensions between their nations as they seek to maneuver to limit the overall influence of the other.

The call, which lasted 90 minutes according to a senior administration official, came at a particularly delicate time. Tensions are growing over Taiwan and the South China Sea, and Mr. Biden is trying to rally the West in what he calls a battle between autocracy and democracy. It also came less than two weeks after the United States completed its withdrawal from Afghanistan, where China became interested in extracting raw materials.

Even though senior Bidens officials stressed the importance of engaging directly with Xi after months of stalled talks, administration officials on Thursday evening gave remarkably few details on the appeal. . Mr Biden urged China to agree to a set of safeguards for policymaking while stressing the need to mitigate climate change, officials said.

The discussion was part of continued efforts by the United States to responsibly manage competition between the United States and the PRC, according to a White House statement, using the abbreviation of the People’s Republic of China. Biden underscored the United States’ enduring interest in peace, stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific and the world, and the two leaders discussed the responsibility of the two countries to ensure that competition does not degenerate into conflict.

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A trillion dollar package has been passed. The Senate passed a vast bipartisan infrastructure package on August 10, closing weeks of intense negotiations and debate over the largest federal investment in the country’s aging public works system in more than a decade. The final vote. The final tally in the Senate was 69 for 30 against. The legislation, which has yet to be passed by the House, would affect nearly every aspect of the U.S. economy and strengthen nations’ response to global warming. Main areas of expenditure. Overall, the bipartisan plan focuses spending on transportation, utilities, and pollution cleanup. About $ 110 billion would go to roads, bridges and other transportation projects; $ 25 billion for airports; and $ 66 billion for railways, giving Amtrak the largest funding it has received since its inception in 1971. Utilities. Senators also included $ 65 billion to connect hard-to-reach rural communities to high-speed internet and help enroll low-income city dwellers who can’t afford it, and $ 8 billion for western water infrastructure. to clean up abandoned pits and mines, and Superfund sites.

The official Chinese summary of the appeal says Xi told Biden that the US government’s policies towards China have strained relations and that it is in the interests of both countries to avoid confrontation.

The policies that the United States has adopted towards China for some time have pushed Sino-American relations into serious difficulties, which is at odds with the fundamental interests of the peoples of the two countries and the common interests of all countries. world, Xi said, according to a summary of the appeal posted online by China’s Foreign Ministry. Whether China and the United States can properly handle the mutual relationship is a question for the century that concerns the fate of the world, and the two countries must answer it.

Xi cited climate change, pandemic prevention and control, and economic recovery among the areas in which Beijing and Washington should cooperate, according to the Foreign Ministry. But he noted that the effort should be based on respecting everyone’s basic concerns and dealing with differences appropriately.

The call between the two leaders in their first substantive conversation since February showed the sense of urgency in the White House to compete with Beijing and set political expectations.

Ahead of the call in the treaty room, senior administration officials said the conversation became necessary after previous discussions erupted in criticism and ended with few commitments to collaborate.

A meeting in March between senior Chinese diplomats and senior officials in the Biden administration, including Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, resulted in denunciations and no joint statement on an intention to collaborate. A trip by Wendy R. Sherman, Assistant Secretary of State, to China in July also ended with little sign of progress.

In the latest attempt to collaborate to tackle climate change, Chinese officials told John Kerry, the U.S. climate envoy, in Tianjin last week that escalating tensions would hamper any potential cooperation.

Without political will at the top of the two governments, any stabilization of the relationship, any progress towards work of mutual benefit like the climate or the pandemic, is impossible, said Myron Brilliant, executive vice president and chief international affairs officer at the United States House. Trade. It starts with the two leaders agreeing to a framework to work together on areas of common interest.

Mr Brilliant said the next phase of dialogue between the two leaders should be supported by more concrete steps towards engagement in areas where the two sides also have differences and challenges, such as trade and technology.

Biden raised concerns with Xi about cybersecurity, two months after the administration accused the Chinese government of violating Microsoft messaging systems used by the world’s largest companies and states United have assembled a large group of allies to condemn Beijing for cyber attacks around the world. .

The Biden administration’s efforts to organize denunciations from several nations angered the Chinese Communist Party. But the Foreign Ministry’s summary of the appeal says the two countries agreed that it was very important for the leaders of China and the United States to engage in in-depth communication and that they would maintain contact. regular.

The conversation came weeks after experts assembled by Director of National Intelligence Avril D. Haines reported that they were unable to conclude whether the coronavirus had escaped from a laboratory or originated from mutation of the virus in the animal population. The inconclusive nature of the review is sure to support competing theories about how the coronavirus emerged and the extent to which Beijing, which has blocked access to key researchers, bears responsibility.

Chris Buckley contributed reporting.

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