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Roving Periscope: In 1st call, Biden ‘clashes’ with Xi Jinping

Roving Periscope: In 1st call, Biden ‘clashes’ with Xi Jinping

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Virendra Pandit 

New Delhi: In their very first telephonic conversation, US President Joe Biden is reported to have clashed with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping on Wednesday over issues like the treatment of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.

According to media reports, this was the first conversation between the two Presidents since Xi Jinping last spoke with ex-US President Donald Trump in March 2020, after which relations between the two countries deteriorated.

Biden was reported to have told Xi that it was a US priority to preserve a free and open Indo-Pacific region and “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.

Xi retorted by warning that Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Xinjiang were “China’s internal affairs and concern China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and the US side should respect China’s core interests and act prudently.”

The Chinese President said the two countries can accomplish much for their mutual benefit if they worked together, while any confrontation “will definitely be disastrous for both countries and the world,” the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement on Thursday.

However, Xi also sounded a positive tone and expressed the hope for better relations: “You have said that America can be defined in one word: Possibilities. We hope the possibilities will now point toward an improvement of China-U.S. relations.”

The White House said that the two Presidents also exchanged views on countering the COVID-19 pandemic, and on the shared challenges of climate change and preventing weapons proliferation.

However, a US official said that Biden’s agenda for the call did not include US participation in Beijing’s 2022 Winter Olympics, despite mounting demands for the Games to be moved over China’s human rights record and Washington’s determination it has committed genocide against minority Muslims in its Xinjiang region.

The call came after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke by phone to top Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi on Friday. Blinken said Washington would stand up for human rights in Xinjiang, Tibet, and Hong Kong, all issues Yang had days earlier said the United States should stay out of.

Biden has called China America’s “most serious competitor”, and his administration indicated it will broadly continue the tough approach taken by Trump.

“I told him I will work with China when it benefits the American people,” Biden tweeted after the call.

 

 

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