WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden spoke with President Xi Jinping of China on Wednesday, White House spokespeople said. It was their first telephone call as leaders, with Biden saying a free and open Indo-Pacific was a priority and Xi warning confrontation would be a “disaster” for both nations.
Biden also warned the Chinese leader about American concerns with Beijing’s aggressive policies abroad and human rights abuses at home while offering to cooperate on global priorities of mutual interest.
The White House said that 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”.
In the call that lasted two hours, the leaders also discussed “the shared challenges of global health security, climate change and preventing weapons proliferation,” according to a summary.
On his part, Xi told Biden that confrontation would be a “disaster” and the two sides should re-establish the means to avoid misjudgments, according to the Chinese foreign ministry’s account of the call. Xi maintained a hardline tone regarding Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Taiwan, telling Biden that they were matters of “sovereignty and territorial integrity” and that he hopes the US will approach cautiously.
In a briefing for reporters before the call, US administration officials said Biden would continue some of the Trump administration’s confrontational policies toward Beijing, which included contesting Chinese territorial claims in Asia, defending Taiwan’s independence and cracking down on China’s cybertheft and hacking. They said they would retain the tariffs Trump imposed on China’s exports to the US. Biden’s call with Xi comes after his conversation with the leaders of his key allies in the Indo-Pacific: Australia, Japan, India and South Korea.

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