US, China military leaders hold highest-level call since before Pelosi’s Taiwan visit

Top-level U.S.-Chinese communications have been re-established after months of antagonism and pointed silence.

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Charles “CQ” Brown Jr. spoke Thursday morning with General Liu Zhenli — chief of the Joint Staff Department of the Central Military Commission in the People’s Liberation Army.

“We’ve been clear about the importance of opening lines of military to military communications with the PRC at the senior most levels. However, it’s just one step, an important step, but it’s not the last step,” a senior U.S. official told Fox News of the call.

The U.S. official continued, “And that’s why we’re continuing to have working level discussions with the PRC about future engagements to make sure that we deliver on what President Biden and Chairman Xi agreed to in November.”

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The two leaders “discussed a number of global and regional security issues,” a U.S. readout of the call said Thursday.

“Gen. Brown discussed the importance of working together to responsibly manage competition, avoid miscalculations, and maintain open and direct lines of communication,” the U.S. said. “Gen. Brown reiterated the importance of the People’s Liberation Army engaging in substantive dialogue to reduce the likelihood of misunderstandings.”

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Charles Brown Jr., prepares to testify at the Senate Armed Services Committee. (Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

The re-establishment of high-level communications follows a collapse in goodwill between the two nations after then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi visited the island of Taiwan in August 2022.

China, which aggressively claims sovereignty over Taiwan despite the island’s autonomous government, immediately ended a slew of diplomatic collaborations, including the types of phone calls re-established this week.

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Nancy Pelosi stands with Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen

Then-Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., center left, poses for photographs after receiving the Order of Propitious Clouds with Special Grand Cordon, Taiwan’s highest civilian honor, from Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen, center right, at the president’s office on a special visit in 2022. (Chien Chih-Hung/Office of The President via Getty Images)

The last phone call at this level was made by then-Chairman General Mark Milley to his counterpart in July 2022.

The official speaking with Fox News attributed the change of heart to President Biden’s persistent appeals to Chinese Communist Party leader Xi Jinping.

Biden met with Xi last month on the sidelines of the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference. This was a follow-up to their first in-person meeting in November 2022 in Bali, Indonesia, where they agreed more direct communication between U.S. and Chinese leadership was desirable. 

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Biden and Xi shake hands in front of the Chinese and US flags

President Biden, right, shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping as they meet on the sidelines of the G20 leaders’ summit in Bali, Indonesia. (REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

“It’s important to reopen the communications,” the U.S. official told Fox News. “These are the kinds of discussions that we need to have to try to avoid misunderstanding or miscalculation. And having those open channels of communication obviously, is a key part of that.”

He concluded, “We view the call tomorrow as an important step of this, but also not the only step. And we have more work that we’re that we’re continuing to do on this front.”

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