“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,” said a readout of the call, provided by the White House. “They agreed to engage on both sets of issues openly and straightforwardly. 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.”
During the Biden administration’s first face-to-face with Chinese officials earlier this year, the two sides traded diplomatic barbs that are rarely displayed in front of the cameras. Biden officials said they planned to address areas of deep concern regarding China’s actions, which triggered an aggressive response from the Chinese officials.
“We continue to believe that setting parameters and guardrails for the competition, and maintaining open lines of communication, is really important. But these lower-level engagements have not been very fruitful, and, candidly, we’ve not been very satisfied with our interlocutors’ behavior,” the senior official said prior to the call. “Given this reality, and you know what has been our consistent approach from the get-go about responsible management of the competition, about lines of communication, President Biden understood the importance of engaging President Xi directly on these issues.”
The official added that “it’s quite likely that engagement at the leader level is really what’s needed to move the ball forward,” given Xi’s centralized power.
When it comes to specific matters of tension between the two countries, the official did not provide a fulsome list but said North Korea and Iran could be discussed in the context of broadly discussing the relationship.
The overall goal, the official said, was to reach a “steady state of affairs with the United States and China.” But that will be a tall task, given that Biden has framed the US-China competition in recent months as a battle between democracy and autocracy.
Biden and Xi are expected to meet at some point, but the official did not expect a specific plan to be announced out of the call.
CNN’s Nikki Carvajal contributed to this report.