February 11th, 2021
Uighurs, Hong Kong, Taiwan: Biden Raises All in First Call with China’s Leader Xi
President Joe Biden has raised all of America’s major concerns with respect to China, from trade to human rights abuses and international tensions, in his first-ever official phone call with Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
The call is deemed instrumental in setting the tone of the Sino-American relations under the new US leadership, they were ridden with tensions and a trade war under the Trump presidency, including over the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic.While the WHO announced that it believed it was “very unlikely” that COVID-19 leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, WHO advisor Jamie Metzl revealed that the investigation into the WIV was conducted “by Chinese authorities.” Writing for the Washington Times, Bill Gertz pointed to declassified documents that show several workers at the institute were sick in autumns 2019 with COVID-like symptoms.The fact that the phone conversation came just ahead of the Lunar New Year, which is celebrated in China, is seen as a goodwill gesture.Biden reported speaking with XI for two hours. "President Biden committed to pursuing practical, results-oriented engagements when it advances the interests of the American people and those of our allies," according to the summary of the call. The two world leaders also discussed combatting the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the "shared challenges of global health security, climate change and preventing weapons proliferation."There is concern over exactly what this means as Biden has used the phrase "Build Back Better," a slogan used by the World Economic Forum to refer to the "Great Reset," which can be summed up in their words, "Welcome to the year 2030. Welcome to my city - or should I say, "our city". I don't own anything." They have no privacy either.
The President has "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 summarized the call in a statement on Wednesday.
China is accused of the internment of more than a million ethnic Uighur Muslims from the Xinjiang province in “re-education camps”, accusations that it denies.Its actions in the autonomous region of Hong Kong have been seen as a crackdown on political freedoms by the West, while Beijing posture towards Taiwan emerges as evermore assertive.
"I told him I will work with China when it benefits the American people," Biden himself said in a tweet.
According to Chinese state television CCTV, Xi warned Biden bad relations would be a disaster for both countries.It reported the two "had an in-depth exchange of views on the bilateral relationship and major international and regional issues" such as countering the Covid-19 pandemic, global health security, climate change and the prevention of weapons proliferation.US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in his confirmation hearing confirmed that he would adopt a similar tough tone with China as the Trump administration. This includes holding them accountable for their "efforts to threaten stability in the Indo-Pacific region, including across the Taiwan Strait, and its undermining of the rules-based international system.” He also called on China to condemn the "military coup" in Myanmar.
China’s Foreign Ministry account of the Biden – Xi call, however, made it clear that the Chinese leader had maintained a hardline tone on Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Taiwan, telling Biden those were matters of “sovereignty and territorial integrity” that the US should approach cautiously.Prior to this, China's foreign ministry pushed back against Antony Blinken's assertion that their treatment of Uighurs amounted to "genocide." When Blinken proposed working together on climate change, they responded, “It is impossible to ask for China’s support in global affairs while interfering in its domestic affairs and undermining its interests."
Back in November, Xi congratulated Biden on his election, even though the former had called him a “thug” during the campaign and had vowed to spearhead an international effort to “pressure, isolate and punish China”."It was a good conversation. I know him well. We spent a lot of time together over the years I was vice president. But if we don't get moving, they're going to eat our lunch," he said, adding China is investing billions of dollars into issues relating to transportation and the environment. "We just have to step up."
After the call Taiwan’s government expressed “our admiration and gratitude for President Biden's concern about the security of the Taiwan Strait and human rights issues”.The Trump administration sought to have more open diplomatic ties with Taiwan, and it appears that the Biden administration may continue that policy to some degree as there was a recent meeting between Taiwanese envoy Hsiao Bi-khim and US State Department Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs Acting Assistant Secretary Sung Kim. An image posted to Twitter seems to indicate the meeting took place in the State Department building.Biden added, "I've said to him all along that we need to not have a conflict. But there's going to be extreme competition. And I'm not going to do it the way that he knows. And that's because he's sending signals as well. I'm not going to do it the way Trump did. We're going to focus on international rules of the road."
Yesterday, Biden revealed a new Defense Department-China task force that will oversee the U.S. "strategy, operation concepts, technology and force posture," and more. The new task force will make recommendations on "key priorities and decision points so that we can chart a strong path forward on China-related matters. That's how we'll meet the China challenge and ensure the the American people win the competition of the future.”