U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke by phone late Wednesday, the first call between the two since Biden’s November victory in the U.S. presidential election.
Biden “affirmed his priorities of protecting the American people’s security, prosperity, health, and way of life, and preserving a free and open Indo-Pacific,” according to a readout provided by the White House.
The two leaders also discussed the coronavirus pandemic, climate change, and the possibility of Washington and Beijing pursuing what the White House described as the possibility of pursuing “practical, results-oriented engagements” on arms control.
But officials said Biden also held firm on several key areas of contention.
“President 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,” the readout said.
The call came just hours after Biden’s first visit to the Pentagon as commander in chief, where he signaled his administration is prepared to counter a rising China, announcing the formation of a task force to reexamine everything, from U.S. strategy and force posture to technology and intelligence, with regard to Beijing.
“The task force will work quickly, drawing on civilian and military experts across the department to provide within the next few months recommendations to [Defense] Secretary [Lloyd] Austin on key priorities and decision points so that we can chart a strong path forward on China-related matters," Biden told reporters.
“It will require a whole-of-government effort, bipartisan cooperation in Congress and strong alliances and partnerships,” the president added. “That's how we'll meet the China challenge and assure the American people win the competition of the future.”
Biden’s critics have repeatedly seized on China as an area of weakness for the recently elected president, loudly harping on what they described as his inability to stand up to Beijing during the recent U.S. presidential campaign.
“China would own our country if Joe Biden got elected,” former President Donald Trump told his supporters this past August.
"It's very simple to remember: If Biden wins, China wins," says @POTUS. pic.twitter.com/vaPlVQJEvK— Steve Herman (@W7VOA) September 8, 2020