Chinese President Xi Jinping told his United States counterpart Joe Biden during a virtual meeting on Monday that encouraging independence of Taiwan would be like “playing with fire”, the BBC reported.

China sees Taiwan – a self-governed territory – as a province that is to be unified with the mainland.

“We have the patience and will strive for the prospect of peaceful reunification [of Taiwan] with utmost sincerity and efforts,” Xi said, according to The Global Times. “But if the separatist forces for ‘Taiwan independence’ provoke us, force our hands or even cross the red line, we will be compelled to take resolute measures.”

During the three-hour-long call between the presidents, Biden urged Xi to resolve human rights violations in Taiwan. In a statement released by the White House, Biden said that the United States opposed “unilateral efforts” of China to disturb peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.

Meanwhile, Biden also discussed the importance of a free and open Indo-Pacific – he recalled the necessity of freedom of navigation and safe overflight to the region’s prosperity.

The United States also opposed the human rights violations in Xinjiang, Tibet, and Hong Kong, according to the statement released from the White House. Biden also said that the American workers and industries need to be protected from China’s unfair trade and economic practices.

Xi replied to Biden’s statement saying that the United States needed to stop “abusing the concept of national security to oppress Chinese companies”, Reuters reported.

During the virtual meeting, Biden also emphasised the need to manage strategic risks. He called for “common-sense guardrails” so that competition between India and China did not turn into conflict.

Xi said that the United States and China as the world’s two largest economies and permanent members of the United Nations Security Council need to increase communication and cooperation, AFP reported.

US-China differences

The United States and China have had differences on many matters since Biden assumed office in January.

The Biden administration has maintained the trade tariffs on China imposed by former US President Donald Trump in 2018. The tariffs – a tax imposed on imported goods – allow the president to restrict foreign commerce that “unfairly burdens” the US.

The US and China had also criticised each other’s policies at high-level talks in Alaska in March – the first since Biden took office.

The US, India, Japan and Australia have sought to boost their cooperation because of China’s increasing power. The countries had held their first meeting as Quad grouping in September. Biden hosted the meeting at the White House.