WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States said on Monday it had taken note of the Communist Party congress in strategic rival China that confirmed Xi Jinping in an unprecedented third term as leader, and stressed the importance of keeping lines of communication open.
Even as the White House reiterated the Biden administration’s focus on “responsibly managing” competition with China and desire to cooperate in areas of mutual interest, prosecutors in New York said they had charged two Chinese nationals with trying to obstruct prosecution of a major Chinese telecommunications company.
State Department spokesperson Ned Price told a regular briefing the party congress would not bring a change in the U.S. approach to China, which he referred to by the initials of its official name.
“We do note the conclusion of the 20th Party Congress and we would welcome cooperation of the PRC where our interests align, and that includes cooperation on climate change and global health, counter narcotics, non-proliferation as well,” he said, stressing that it was “perhaps the most consequential bilateral relationship we have.”
White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre told a separate briefing President Joe Biden and Xi had spoken five times as leaders, but said she had nothing to share about a possible first in-person meeting as leaders at the G20 summit in Indonesia next month.
“We continue our efforts to keep lines of communication open, including at the leader level,” she said. “We believe it important to keep those conversations ongoing and we will continue to do that.”
Xi secured an unprecedented third leadership term on Sunday and introduced a top governing body stacked with loyalists, cementing his place as China’s most powerful ruler since Mao Zedong.
During Xi’s tenure, China’s relations with Washington have plummeted and fears have risen that the two superpowers with the world’s biggest economies could become engaged in a conflict over Taiwan, a self-administered U.S.-backed island China claims as its own.
A person familiar with the matter identified the Chinese telecommunications company in the New York case as Huawei Technologies Co Ltd, which has been at the center of U.S. disputes with China over alleged espionage and technology theft.
U.S. prosecutors said the case was representative of a broader pattern of unlawful influence efforts by China, and announced they had also charged 11 people in two other cases with spying for Beijing or intimidating Chinese dissidents.
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal, Steve Holland, David Brunnstrom and Simon Lewis; Editing by Stephen Coates)