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Biden: China's Xi Jinping doesn't have 'a democratic ... bone in his body'

Deirdre Shesgreen, USA TODAY
·3 min read
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WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden took a direct swipe a Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday and offered the clearest picture yet of his administration's strategy toward Beijing.

During his first solo news conference as president, Biden warned that China seeks to become the world's wealthiest and most powerful country – and to impose its repressive autocracy across the globe.

"Xi doesn't have a doesn't have a democratic – with a small ‘d’ – bone in his body," Biden said. He compared Xi to Russian President Vladimir Putin and said they both think "autocracy is the wave of the future" and that democracies can't function in an ever-more complex world.

Biden did not answer a question about whether he would keep the Trump administration's tariffs on Beijing in place. He said his approach to dealing with China would be threefold:

• Outcompete Beijing by exponentially increasing U.S. investment in science and technology.

• Counter China's authoritarian expansionism by strengthening America's alliances with other democratic countries.

• Focus the world's attention on Beijing's escalating human rights abuses.

Biden said U.S. investment in science and technology, as a percentage of gross domestic product, has dropped dramatically in recent decades, and he wants to reverse that slide. He said his administration would push major increases in funding for artificial Intelligence, quantum computing, biotech and other industries.

"China is out-investing us by a long shot, because their plan is to own that future," Biden said, adding that he wanted to make sure that does not happen.

Biden reiterated his plan to convene a summit of democracies, where China's expansionism would be a big part of the agenda.

"We have to have democracies working together," he said.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Europe meeting with allies to discuss China and a bevy of other geopolitical challenges. In a speech in Brussels on Wednesday, Blinken highlighted the threat from China and said the U.S.-European Union alliance was vital to countering that.

Blinken said the Biden administration would not force its allies into an "us or them choice" on China.

"We know that our allies have complex relationships with China that won't always align perfectly, but we need to navigate these challenges together," Blinken said in a speech at NATO headquarters. "That means working with our allies to close the gaps in areas like technology and infrastructure."

Biden did not answer a question about whether his administration is considering a ban on Chinese products made from forced labor. He vowed to call out China for its human rights abuses, including its detention of more than 1 million Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in internment camps in its Xinjiang region.

He said he told Xi directly that "as long as you and your country continue to so blatantly violate human rights, we're going to continue in an unrelenting way to call it to the attention of the world."

The Biden administration said China is engaging in "genocide" against the Uyghurs, pointing to reports of forced sterilization, rape and other abuses aimed at reducing the population's birthrate.

Biden's remarks on China came on the heels of a tense exchange between Biden's national security advisers and their Chinese counterparts during their first face-to-face meeting in Alaska last week. The meetings got off to a rocky start as U.S. and Chinese officials sparred publicly over human rights, cyberattacks and trade policies.

Contributing: Joey Garrison and Courtney Subramanian

More:

2022 Winter Olympics without the USA? Push to boycott grows over China's alleged human rights abuses

Biden puts a twist on 'America First' even as he moves to unravel Trump's foreign policy

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Biden press conference used to blast Xi, outline China strategy