Before the call in the Treaty Room, senior administration officials said the conversation became necessary after previous discussions had erupted in criticism and ended with few commitments to collaborate.
A meeting in March between China’s top diplomats and senior Biden administration officials, including Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, ended in denunciations and without any joint statement on an intention to collaborate. A trip by Wendy R. Sherman, the deputy secretary of state, to China in July similarly ended with little sign of progress.
During the most recent attempt to collaborate on addressing climate change, Chinese officials told John Kerry, the U.S. climate envoy, in Tianjin last week that the escalating tension would hinder any potential cooperation.
“Without political will at the very top of both governments, any stabilization of the relationship, any progress toward work of mutual concern like climate or the pandemic, is impossible,” said Myron Brilliant, the executive vice president and head of international affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “It starts with the two leaders agreeing to a framework for working together on areas of shared concern.”
Mr. Brilliant said the next phase of dialogue between the two leaders would need “to be backed by more concrete steps toward engagement in areas where the two sides also have differences and challenges,” such as trade and technology.
Mr. Biden shared concerns with Mr. Xi over cybersecurity, two months after the administration accused the Chinese government of breaching Microsoft email systems used by the world’s largest companies and the United States rallied a broad group of allies to condemn Beijing for cyberattacks around the world.
The effort by the Biden administration to organize denunciations from multiple nations angered the Chinese Communist Party. But the Foreign Ministry’s summary of the call said that both countries “agreed that it was very important for the leaders of China and the United States to engage in thorough communication” and that they would maintain regular contact.