Biden speaks with Chinese President Xi Jinping for first time since taking office

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President Biden on Wednesday spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping for the first time since taking office.

The two world leaders spoke by phone, with Biden raising several concerns over the economy and human rights.

“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 White House said in a statement.

Biden and Xi also “exchanged views on countering the COVID-19 pandemic, and the shared challenges of global health security, climate change, and preventing weapons proliferation,” the statement said.

The call on Wednesday was also the first time since March a US president spoke to the Chinese leader.

The shifting US-China alliance poses one of the greatest foreign policy challenges to Biden’s presidency.

Under predecessor Donald Trump, the US slapped Chinese goods with steep tariffs, criticized President Xi Jinping for the country’s mishandling of the first cases of the coronavirus pandemic, and condemned human rights abuses against Uighurs.

In an interview with CBS News over the weekend, Biden acknowledged China was a growing rival to the US in terms of economic power and military might, but said he would handle matters differently than Trump.

“There’s going to be extreme competition and I’m not going to do it the way that he knows,” Biden said of Jinping.

“I’m not going to do it the way Trump did. We’re going to focus on international rules of the road,” he went on, insisting that there did not need to be conflict between the two countries.

While Communist Beijing described the new Biden administration as “a new window of hope” for US relations, the relationship is off to a rocky start.

China’s foreign ministry dismissed Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s appeals to work together on climate change after he said he agreed that the Chinese government’s treatment of Uighur Muslims amounted to “genocide.”

“It is impossible to ask for China’s support in global affairs while interfering in its domestic affairs and undermining its interests,” a statement read.

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