As the nation ready to have fun the Lunar New Year — albeit, in a strictly restricted, coronavirus vogue — Chinese chief Xi Jinping had a telephone call with US President Joe Biden, the first time the 2 males have spoken for the reason that latter’s election. Like many issues within the post-Donald Trump period, the call was notable largely for its normality, a return to how issues had been previous to 2016.
According to a concise White House readout of the call, 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 briefing reporters, each earlier than and after, US officers officers performed up Biden’s willingness to confront Xi and his lengthy historical past of partaking with China, having met Xi himself a number of instances when Biden was vice chairman to Barack Obama.
“Modern-day historians can certainly confirm that there are few presidents who came into this job with more of a history on engaging with Chinese leadership,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki stated Thursday, including that the call was “robust and comprehensive.”

Comprehensive it might need been, but in response to Chinese state media, what robustness there was didn’t end in any pressure or dangerous feeling — fairly the other.

“Xi-Biden telephone call sends positive signals to world,” state information company Xinhua stated in a commentary, including that Biden had pledged to speak in “the spirit of mutual respect and to improve mutual understanding and avoid miscommunication and miscalculation.”
In a separate abstract of the call, Xinhua quoted Xi as saying to Biden: “You have said that America can be defined in one word: Possibilities. We hope the possibilities will now point toward an improvement of China-US relations.”

That account went into significantly extra element in regards to the call than the White House readout, and but the problems of Taiwan, Hong Kong and Xinjiang, such pivotal factors in response to Washington’s account, are relegated to a single sentence within the fourteenth paragraph. Xi is quoted as dismissing Biden’s issues out of hand, saying all three areas are “China’s internal affairs and concern China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

“The US side should respect China’s core interests and act prudently,” Xi is quoted as saying.

Then Vice-President Joe Biden shakes hands with Chinese leader Xi Jinping during a visit to Beijing in 2013.

Without a recording of the call itself, there isn’t a strategy to inform which account is essentially the most correct; of their summaries, each side are speaking to a home viewers, Biden in claiming to be powerful on problems with human rights, Xi in saying he was equally powerful in pushing again.

These obvious variations reveal one thing of the difficulties dealing with Biden in dealing with China, a rustic he lately described as America’s “most serious competitor.”

Though Biden might want to seem powerful on China — and should pursue insurance policies that take this stance past the rhetorical — he’s dealing with a rustic that’s extra highly effective than it has ever been, one which weathered an intensely hostile Trump administration, and has come largely out of the coronavirus pandemic stronger and safer, whereas the US stays mired in various levels of political and social strife.

He can be dealing with a rustic that’s greater than adept at enjoying this sport. The response to the Biden call in China is that it represents an opportunity for a brand new starting, suggesting Xi and his administration are unconcerned by Biden’s seemingly powerful stance.

Biden just isn’t the primary US chief lately to deal with uncomfortable points when speaking with senior Chinese officers and diplomats. And as earlier US administrations have proven, denouncing Beijing publicly doesn’t essentially preclude the 2 sides from working collectively.

Bill Clinton, who as soon as condemned the “butchers of Beijing” following the 1989 Tiananmen Square bloodbath, additionally lobbied for China to affix the World Trade Organization (WHO), massively boosting the Chinese economic system and the nation’s standing on the worldwide stage.

His successors, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, whereas often experiencing moments of pressure with Beijing, additionally sought to accomplice with China on points resembling North Korea, Iran, and cybersecurity, in addition to boosting financial engagement.

In a go to to Beijing in 2009, Obama’s secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, stated that Washington’s lobbying on problems with Tibet, Taiwan and human rights, “can’t interfere with the global economic crisis, the global climate change crisis, and the security crisis.”
The greatest distinction that Trump introduced to his predecessors was a willingness to explode the US-China relationship totally. To date, Biden’s administration has been joyful to retain most of Trump’s tariffs and sanctions, as a negotiating software if nothing else, and this week Biden ordered the Pentagon to overview its China technique, whereas persevering with to ship forces to the South China Sea.

However, the Biden administration has additionally made clear there are points resembling local weather change during which the 2 sides share a nationwide curiosity, and which it can search cooperation with Beijing. Of extra potential concern to China, Biden has additionally prompt he might rally European leaders and different allies — extra prepared to hearken to him than Trump — in opposing Beijing on numerous points, although how this gels with additionally wanting Chinese engagement in different areas stays to be seen.

In a call between Biden’s Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi, the latter stated “each side should focus on taking care of its own domestic affairs,” including that “no one can stop the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.”

Since Clinton, Washington has been criticized by China hawks for being too comfortable on Beijing, for not utilizing the leverage it had whereas the 2 powers had been unequal. Biden is probably the primary US chief for whom this isn’t essentially an choice, and he will likely be dealing with a superpower that’s on an equal footing.

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