The Oklahoman

Biden calls Xi as US-China relationsh­ip worsens

Leaders discuss way ahead for two countries

- Aamer Madhani and Joe McDonald

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden spoke with China’s Xi Jinping on Thursday amid growing frustratio­n on the American side that high-level engagement between the two leaders’ top advisers has been largely unfruitful in the early going of the Biden presidency.

Biden initiated the call with Xi, the second between the two leaders since Biden took office. It comes at a moment when there is no shortage of thorny issues between the two nations, including cybersecur­ity breaches originatin­g from China, Beijing’s handling of the coronaviru­s pandemic and what the White House has labeled as “coercive and unfair” trade practices by the Chinese.

But Biden’s aim with the 90-minute call was less focused on any of those hot-button issues and instead centered on discussing the way ahead for the U.S.-China relationsh­ip after it got off to a decidedly rocky start in his tenure.

The White House said in a statement the “two leaders had a broad, strategic discussion in which they discussed areas where our interests converge, and areas where our interests, values, and perspectiv­es diverge.”

The White House is hopeful the two sides can work together on issues of mutual concern – including climate change and preventing a nuclear crisis on the Korean Peninsula – despite growing differences.

Beijing, however, has pushed back against U.S. pressure and increasing­ly has suggested it could remain broadly uncooperat­ive until Biden dials down criticism on what it deems Chinese internal matters.

Xi in the call appeared to echo some of the complaints, telling Biden that U.S. government policy toward China caused “serious difficulties” in relations, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

“This is not in the basic interests of the two peoples,” the Chinese leader said, according to Xinhua.

“Chinese-U.S. confrontat­ion will bring disaster to both countries and the world,” Xi added.

Xi said the two sides should cooperate on climate change, epidemic prevention, economic recovery and other issues, Xinhua reported.

Ahead of the call, a senior administra­tion official said the White House has been unsatisfied with early engagement­s with the Chinese.

The official, who was not authorized to comment publicly and spoke on the condition of anonymity, said White House officials were hopeful that Xi hearing directly from Biden could prove beneficial.

The White House official said Biden made clear to Xi that he had no intention of moving away from his administra­tion’s policy of pressing China on human rights, trade and other areas where it believes China is acting outside internatio­nal norms.

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