President Joe Biden speaks with Chinese President Xi Jinping for first time as head of US government

President Joe Biden has spoken to Chinese President Xi Jinping for the first time since he walked into the oval office three weeks ago.

The phone call between the leaders of the world’s first and second largest economies is believed to have touched upon a range of issues, including economic competition and China’s track record on human rights. The two men are already acquainted, having spent dozens of hours together throughout 2011 and 2012 when Biden was Vice President and Jinping the apparent successor to the Chinese presidency. A senior official in the administration said that Biden was “looking forward to the call” and that “he obviously has spent a lot of time with Xi Jinping over the years, and the two leaders know each other very well.”

The official also told reporters that Biden “knows what he wants to lay down in terms of the range of concerns he has with China’s actions and policies. He also wants to ensure that the two of them have the opportunity to have an open line of communication.” In a statement the Whitehouse said that “President Biden underscored his fundamental concerns about Beijing’s coercive and unfair economic practices, the crackdown in Hong Kong, human rights abuses in Xinjiang, and increasingly assertive actions in the region, including toward Taiwan.” The statement went onto say that both leaders “exchanged views on countering the COVID-19 pandemic, and the shared challenges of global health security, climate change and preventing weapons proliferation.”

The Chinese state run news agency Xinhua reported that Xi Jinping told Biden that “Chinese-U.S. cooperation can achieve many great things that benefit both countries and the whole world. Confrontation between China and the U.S. would certainly be a disaster for both countries and the world” and that “when China and the United States cooperate, both sides gain, and when they fight, both are harmed”. The report given by Xinhua mentions that Jinping also warned President Biden that in “matters concerning Chinese sovereignty and territorial integrity…. the U.S. side should respect China’s core interests and act with caution” This of course is an indirect reference to events in Hong Kong and Taiwan, as well as the human rights abuses against the Uyghur people in Xinjiang.

The ever-changing relations between China and America poses one of the greatest foreign policy challenges President Biden will have to deal with. He intends to review the methods President Trump’s administration took against China, however for at least the time being Trump’s tariffs on Chinese goods will remain with an official stating that “we have maintained the tariffs that were laid down over the course of the past few years, not because we think that that trade war was particularly successful, but rather because we believe that we have to very carefully, in consultation with allies and partners, in consultation with the Congress, work through the sources of leverage we have.”




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