Biden and Xi discuss avoiding conflict

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US President Joe Biden has spoken by phone with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, the White House says, with both leaders discussing the need to avoid letting competition between the world's two largest economies veer into conflict.

Relations between Washington and Beijing have been at their lowest point in decades and it was only the second call between the leaders since Biden took office in January.

A White House statement on Thursday said the two leaders had "a broad, strategic discussion", including "areas where our interests converge, and areas where our interests, values, and perspectives diverge".

Chinese state media reported the conversation was "candid" and "in-depth", adding President Xi said US policy on China imposed great difficulties on relations between the two.

The Chinese report said both sides agreed to maintain frequent contact and to ask working-level teams to increase communications.

Occasional high-level meetings since Xi and Biden's first call in February have yielded scant progress on a slew of issues, from climate change, to human rights, and transparency over the origins of COVID-19.

During the ensuing months, the two sides have lashed out at each other on an almost constantly, often resorting to vitriolic public attacks, slapping sanctions on each other's officials and criticising the other for not upholding their international obligations.

"President 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 both nations to ensure competition does not veer into conflict," the statement said.

The Biden administration, preoccupied by a chaotic US withdrawal from Afghanistan, has signaled that ending America's longest war will give US political and military leaders the space to focus on more pressing threats stemming from China's rapid rise.

But Beijing has been quick to seize on the US failure in Afghanistan to try to portray the United States as a fickle partner and China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi said last month that Washington should not expect China's cooperation on that or other issues if it was also trying to "contain and suppress" China.

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