The first direct dialogue between Joe Biden and Xi Jinping began since March

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Joe Biden speaks virtually with Chinese leader Xi Jinping from the White House in Washington, United States, November 15, 2021. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo (JONATHAN ERNST/)

US President Joe Biden talks this Thursday morning with Xi Jinping of China, the fifth conversation of their presidencies, as the two leaders chart the future of their complicated relationship at a time of rising economic and geopolitical tensions.

The call, which began at 8:33 a.m. ET, comes as Biden aims to find new ways to work with the rising world power., as well as strategies to contain China’s influence around the world. Differing perspectives on global health, economic policy, and human rights have long tested the relationship, and China’s refusal to condemn Russia‘s invasion of Ukraine adds further tension.

The last pressure point has been the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s possible visit to Taiwan, the island that is democratically governed and receives informal defensive support from the US, but which China considers part of its territory. Beijing has said it would view such a trip as a provocation, a threat that US officials are taking more seriously in light of Russia’s incursion into Ukraine.

“If the United States insists on going its own way and challenging China’s results, it will surely receive forceful answers”Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, told reporters earlier this week. “All subsequent consequences will be borne by the US.”

Pelosi would be the highest-ranking American elected official to travel to Taiwan since Republican Newt Gingrich visited the island in 1997 when he was Speaker of the House. Biden told reporters last week that US military officials believed it was “not a good idea” for the speaker to visit the island at this time.

John Kirbya US national security spokesman, said Wednesday that it was important that Biden and Xi communicate regularly.

“The president wants to make sure that the lines of communication with President Xi remain open because it is necessaryKirby told reporters at a White House briefing. “There are issues where we can cooperate with China and there are issues where there is obviously friction and tension.”

Biden and Xi last spoke in March, shortly after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“This is one of the most important bilateral relationships in the world today, with ramifications far beyond the two individual countries.”Kirby said.

The conversation comes as Biden moved to change US reliance on Chinese manufacturing, including the Senate’s approval on Wednesday of legislation to encourage semiconductor companies to build more high-tech plants in the US low-income countries as an alternative to China’s “Belt and Road Initiative,” which aims to boost China’s trade with other global markets.

Kirby listed a number of areas of friction between the US and China that he said would be part of the conversation.including “stresses over Taiwantensions on the China’s aggressive behavior in the Indo-Pacific outside Taiwan, tensions in the economic relationship and about the China’s reaction to Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Bidenwhich has maintained Trump-era tariffs on many products made in China to maintain its influence over Beijing, it is weighing whether to smooth out at least some of them in a move to lessen the impact of skyrocketing inflation on American households.

US officials have also criticized China’s “zero-COVID” policy of mass testing and lockdowns in an effort to contain the spread of COVID-19 in its territory, calling it misguided and worried it will further slow global economic growth.

Other points of tension include China’s treatment of Muslim Uyghursthat the United States has declared a genocide, its militarization in the South China Sea and the global campaign of economic and political espionage.

(With information from AP)