Biden Spent Two Hours on the Phone With Chinese President Xi

Date: 2021-02-11 16:36:40

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Joe Biden, in his first conversation as president with the Chinese leader Xi Jinping, spoke of his concern about China’s “coercive and unfair economic practices” as well as human rights abuses in the Xinjiang region, according to a White House account of their telephone call.

Biden also expressed misgivings about the country’s growing restrictions on political freedoms in Hong Kong and “increasingly assertive actions in the region, including toward Taiwan,” in the call, which took place Thursday morning Beijing time.

Biden, who wished Xi a happy Lunar New Year, was “committed to pursuing practical, results-oriented engagements when it advances the interests of the American people and those of our allies,” the White House said.

The two presidents, according to the readout of the call, “exchanged views on countering the Covid-19 pandemic, and the shared challenges of global health security, climate change, and preventing weapons proliferation.”

“It is notable that Taiwan was specifically mentioned as one of President Biden’s top three concerns in the phone call,” said Natasha Kassam, a former Australian diplomat who is now a research fellow at Australia’s Lowy Institute research group. “It signals more continuity than divergence from the approach that was taken under the Trump administration, where high level visits to Taiwan were normalized. It also suggests that Beijing’s recent uptick in aggression in the Taiwan Strait has not gone unnoticed by the new U.S. administration.”

China’s official state news agency Xinhua, meanwhile, cited Xi as saying China and the U.S. should re-establish mechanisms for dialogue so that there would be an accurate understanding of each other’s policy intentions and to avoid misunderstanding and miscalculation.

The Xinhua report said foreign affairs officials from both sides may deepen communication on bilateral relations and major international and regional matters. More contact may be carried out among economic, financial, law enforcement and military bodies, Xinhua said. But it also repeated that Taiwan, Hong Kong and Xinjiang issues were China’s domestic affairs, and said the U.S. should respect China’s core interests and act with caution.

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