Biden warns senators China could “eat our lunch”

US President Joe Biden followed his first conversation since he took office with Xi Jinping, his Chinese counterpart, by warning domestic politicians about the threat from China

Biden warns senators China could “eat our lunch”
Biden and Xi's relationship is going to be crucial for US-China relations. Biden warned US senators of the threat they face, a day after talking to Xi. File picture: Reuters.

(ATF) President Biden told a group of US senators at a meeting on Thursday February 11 that the United States must raise its game to meet the challenge from China.

Biden said he spoke to his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping for two hours on Wednesday night and warned the senators who had gathered for a meeting about infrastructure: “If we don’t get moving, they are going to eat our lunch.”

“They’re investing billions of dollars dealing with a whole range of issues that relate to transportation, the environment and a whole range of other things. We just have to step up.”

The White House said that Biden voiced “fundamental” concerns about Beijing’s “coercive and unfair” trade practices, as well as about human rights issues, including China’s crackdown in Hong Kong and its treatment of Muslims in Xinjiang, in his call with Xi.

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Biden also expressed concern about China’s lack of transparency over the coronavirus.

Xi maintained a hard line on Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Taiwan, calling them matters of “sovereignty and territorial integrity” he hoped Washington would approach cautiously.

The Biden administration has signalled it will maintain pressure on Beijing, and has endorsed a Trump administration determination that China has committed genocide in Xinjiang.

But it has also pledged to take a more multilateral approach and is keen to cooperate with Beijing on issues like climate change and persuading North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons.

Biden has stressed the relationship he established with Xi when vice president under Barack Obama, through more than 24 hours of private meetings and 17,000 miles of travel together.

On Thursday, he said he had a good conversation with Xi and knew him well.

'Possibilities'

Chinese officials have expressed optimism bilateral relations will improve under Biden and have urged Washington to meet Beijing halfway.

Readouts of the call from both sides mentioned areas for potential cooperation, such as climate change and fighting Covid-19.

China’s foreign ministry said Xi had quoted back to Biden the US president’s saying that “America can be defined in one word: Possibilities.”

“We hope the possibilities will now point toward an improvement of China-US relations,” it quoted Xi as saying.

The editor-in-chief of the Chinese-backed title the Global Times said in a tweet the fact that the call lasted two hours was “a very positive message” that showed “in-depth communication.”

A US official said Washington was in a position of strength after consultations with allies and partners to lay out concerns about China’s “aggressive activities and abuses.”

He said the administration would look in coming months at adding “new targeted restrictions” on sensitive technology exports to China.

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