Biden In the first call to China's Xi Jinping, emphasizes human rights and regional policies

US president discusses climate change, pandemic and arms control with Chinese counterpart
Joe Biden meets Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing in on December 04, 2013, one of several meetings the US president had with the Chinese leader while seving as vice president under

In a call with Xi Jinping on Wednesday, his first direct contact since taking office last month, with the leader of the second-largest economy in the world, President Joe Biden raised US questions about China's human rights record and regional strategy.

It was Mr. Xi's first call to the President of the United States since he talked to former President Donald Trump last March. Since then, relations have plummeted to their worst level in decades between the two nations.

Mr Biden told his Chinese counterpart it was a US priority to preserve a free and open Indo-Pacific region and underscored his "fundamental concerns about China's crackdown in Hong Kong, human rights abuses in Xinjiang, and increasingly assertive actions toward Taiwan", the White House said.

In a response to the US willingness to collaborate with Beijing in persuading North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons, the White House said, Mr. Biden and Mr. Xi exchanged views on countering the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as on the mutual problems of climate change and preventing proliferation of weapons.

A senior Biden administration official said before the call that Mr. Biden would be "practical, hard-headed, clear-eyed" in dealing with Mr. Xi, but wanted to ensure that, despite US reservations about China's actions, the two of them had the opportunity to provide an open line of communication.

The official said the call came at a time when, after consultations with allies and partners, the US believed it was in a position of strength to spell out key concerns about China's "aggressive activities and abuses"

He said, however, Mr. Biden's call agenda did not include US participation in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, amid mounting demands for the Games to be relocated because of China's human rights record and Washington's willingness to commit genocide in its Xinjiang area against minority Muslims.

In the coming months, the Biden administration will look at adding "new targeted restrictions" in cooperation with allies and partners on some sensitive technology exports to China, the official said.

He also said there would be no immediate measures to lift the trade tariffs of the former Trump administration on China, but more talks with allies on how to deal with Beijing's trade imbalances.

On Friday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke by phone to Yang Jiechi, the top Chinese diplomat. Since former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met Mr Yang in Hawaii last June, this was the first confirmed high-level exchange between top diplomats from the two countries.

In his call, Mr. Blinken said that in Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong, Washington will stand up for human rights, all issues Mr. Yang had said days earlier that the US should stay out of.

In a November letter, Mr. Xi congratulated Mr. Biden on his victory, despite Mr. Biden calling him a thug during the campaign and vowing to lead an international effort to "pressure, isolate and punish China"

Mr Biden referred to Beijing as Washington's "most serious competitor" and his administration suggested that Mr Trump's stern approach would continue widely.

In a CBS interview broadcast on the weekend, Mr Biden said that the relationship would be marked by "extreme competition" and showed no indication that he was in a rush to engage. After talks with allies and friends he had promised to collaborate with to stand up to Beijing, his call to Mr Xi came.

Mr Biden said that his administration had expressed expectations that China would collaborate on policy goals such as climate change.

"I told him I will work with China when it benefits the American people," Mr Biden said on Twitter after the call.

Mr Biden highlighted the friendship he formed with Mr Xi in the CBS interview when he was vice president under Barack Obama.

Mr Biden said that when he was vice president, he had 24-25 hours of private meetings with Mr Xi and traveled almost 28,000 kilometers with him.

Mr Biden described Mr Xi as "very bright" and "very tough". He said:
"He doesn't have – and I don't mean this as a criticism, just the reality – he doesn't have a democratic, small D, bone in his body."

Chinese officials expressed cautious optimism that under Mr Biden the relationship would strengthen and urged Washington to "meet China halfway"

Recently, the Global Times, a tabloid run by the People's Daily Chinese Communist Party paper, said it expected the Biden administration to keep talking hard while strengthening cooperation in some areas.

Initially, Mr. Trump tried to include China in the first part of his administration, but on February 6, 2017, his first call to Mr. Xi did not take place until more than two weeks after his inauguration.