US President Joe Biden said he has spoken with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday and shared his concerns about Beijing’s economic practices, human rights abuses, and coercion of Taiwan.
In the first direct conversation between the leaders of the two countries since Biden took office, they discussed a range of topic including Beijing’s human rights abuses in Xinjiang, its crackdown in Hong Kong and trade practices.
At the same time, Biden touched upon potential areas of cooperation such as the coronavirus pandemic, preventing weapons proliferation and climate change.
But according to a read-out of the call from the American side, Mr. Biden stressed that it was a US priority to preserve a free and open Indo-Pacific.
The US president used the call to press “fundamental concerns” over the persecution of the Uyghur Muslim minority in China’s western Xinjiang region, as well as mentioning Hong Kong and Taiwan.
“President Biden underscored his fundamental concerns about Beijing’s coercive and unfair economic practices, crackdown in Hong Kong, human rights abuses in Xinjiang, and increasingly assertive actions in the region, including toward Taiwan,” the White House said in a statement.
The conversation between the presidents of the world’s two largest economies was the first since Mr. Xi spoke with former president Donald Trump last March, after which came a dramatic deterioration in diplomatic ties between Washington and Beijing over trade, technology, territorial claims in the South China Sea and China’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Following the conversation, Mr. Biden took to Twitter to say he talked to the Chinese leader to wish him well on the occasion of Chinese New Year and also shared concerns about Beijing’s economic practices, human rights abuses, and coercion of Taiwan.
The US’s support for Taiwan, which is fending off aggression and threats of “unification” from Beijing, is one of the most sensitive issues in the US-China relationship, and one raised by Biden during the call.
“I told him I will work with China when it benefits the American people,” Mr. Biden added.
The Biden administration is planning to add new “targeted restrictions” on some technology exports to China, a senior official of the administration told Reuters. The official said that there would be no changes in the restrictions imposed by the Trump administration on trade tariffs with China.
The relations between the two countries nosedived after Donald Trump administration imposed steep tariffs on Chinese goods and barred Chinese telecom companies over alleged security threats, starting a trade war between the two.
Mr. Biden spoke to China’s president just hours after he announced plans to introduce a new Pentagon task force to review the US national security strategy on China.
Mr. Biden had worked closely with China when he served as Barack Obama’s vice president and played host to then-Chinese vice president Mr. Xi during his visit to the US in 2012. He used the visit to raise concerns about intellectual property theft by Beijing and human rights abuses. (Source: The Independent)