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Opinion
Matthew Brooker

Biden and Xi Are Still Hostage to a Wild Card

They’ve avoided any perceived display of weakness, but the two leaders have little scope to maneuver on Taiwan — or the potential fallout from a planned visit by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Taiwan Air Force Brave Eagle advanced jet trainers.

Taiwan Air Force Brave Eagle advanced jet trainers.

Photographer: I-Hwa Cheng/Bloomberg

Given US-China relations that are arguably their worst in 50 years and the renewed flaring of tensions over Taiwan, Thursday’s call between President Joe Biden and his counterpart Xi Jinping appears to have been as productive as anyone could have expected.

Neither side described the talks as “constructive,” though that shouldn’t be cause for excessive alarm. Biden and Xi both have domestic political pressures that made it imperative to avoid any display of perceived weakness. It wouldn’t have done for their meeting to have been characterized as overly friendly. It is enough, then, to see that both sides described the call as “candid” and “in-depth,” and agreed to develop further lines of communication, including planning a first face-to-face meeting between the two presidents.