The video call between United States President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart, Mr Xi Jinping, did not deliver a breakthrough in the strained ties - it was not expected, anyway - but at least offers comfort that there has been a conversation at the highest levels at a moment of grave geopolitical churn. Brewing tensions have worsened since the Covid-19 pandemic was first reported from China and are now approaching crisis point, with the most likely flashpoint being the Taiwan Strait, alongside other key friction areas such as the Sino-Indian border and the South China Sea. China's warming strategic ties with Russia, the aggressor against Ukraine, have added another dimension.
Into this incendiary mix has been added a likely torch: speculation that United States House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the second in line for the presidency and a longtime critic of China, may visit Taiwan. Predictably, this has been received poorly in Beijing, whose defence ministry has said it would "not sit idly by" and it clearly prompted Mr Xi's reported warning to Mr Biden about "playing with fire". Against this backdrop, while it remains unclear whether she will add Taiwan to her schedule ultimately, Mrs Pelosi probably is best advised not to do so. Certainly, this is not the moment for such a visit; it would be a needless provocation. Mr Biden himself has said that even the Pentagon did not want Mrs Pelosi to visit Taiwan.