In a call that lasted over two hours, Chinese President Xi Jinping sternly warned President Biden, “Those who play with fire will only get burnt,” referring to the U.S.’ involvement in Taiwan’s independence.
The call on Thursday, which began at 8:33 a.m. ET, was their fifth since Biden took office in 2021 and the longest that the two have ever shared at two hours and 17 minutes, which speaks to the rising tensions between the world’s two most powerful economies.
The leaders were scheduled to talk about a wide range of topics, including Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which China has not officially condemned; however, most notable was their heated discussion surrounding Taiwan.
According to China’s state news agency, Xi told Biden, “Those who play with fire will only get burnt” and “[We] hope the U.S. side can see this clearly.”
China has maintained there is no compromise on its “one-China principle,” which asserts that Taiwan remains an inalienable part of China as a territory despite its separate political system.
Taiwan has similarly remained strong in its stance of independence, which has provoked aggression from China, including the increase of its military presence near the island.
Last month, Chinese Defense Minister General Wei-Fenghe warned that the country would “definitely not hesitate to start a war” should anyone dare “split” Taiwan from the mainland.
The U.S. has officially maintained a passive position, insisting it does not support Taiwan’s independence.
The news of the extended phone call comes amid House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s possible visit to Taiwan, to which Beijing has issued multiple warnings and threats of repercussions.
Pelosi is also a long-time critic of Beijing, having publicly accused the country’s government of human rights abuses on multiple occasions.
Ahead of the call, White House national security spokesperson John Kirby clarified that the point of the interaction was about “keeping the lines of communication open with the president of China,” considering it is “one of the most consequential bilateral relationships” of the world.