In a three-hour call, US President Joe Biden and China President Xi Jinping discussed North Korea, Afghanistan, Iran, global energy markets, trade and competition, climate change, military issues, the pandemic, and other topics on which they often disagree on.

Xi, who has not left his country since COVID-19 spread over the world nearly two years ago, compared the two countries to "two enormous ships sailing in the sea" that needed to be steadied so they didn't collide.

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Xi told Biden, "I hope you can exercise political leadership to bring the US' China policy to a rational and pragmatic track." Biden also spoke of avoiding conflict.

"It seemed to me that our obligation as leaders of China and the US is to guarantee that our competition between our countries does not veer into conflict, whether intentionally or unintentionally," Biden said. "It's just a simple, straightforward competition."

A senior US official said that the two leaders had a "healthy debate" afterward. Biden emphasised the necessity of China honouring its promises under a trade agreement negotiated with Biden's predecessor, Donald Trump, the US official said.

China is falling behind on a pledge to buy $200 billion more in US goods and services, but Chinese officials said Xi told Biden that avoiding politicising the issue was crucial.

According to US officials, the two presidents also discussed strategies to address global energy supplies. Xi agreed to upgrade a "fast track lane" for US business officials visiting China.