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Biden holds first phone call with China's Xi

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U.S. President Joe Biden spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping for the first time since coming into office on Wednesday evening.

Biden stressed human rights concerns and the importance of a free and open Indo-Pacific, while Xi warned that a confrontation between the two nations would be a "disaster."

Xi also urged that the two sides should re-establish the means to avoid misjudgments, according to the Chinese foreign ministry's account of the call.

Biden emphasised what he called Beijing's "coercive and unfair practices," including its "crackdown in Hong Kong, reported human rights abuses in Xinjiang, and increasingly assertive actions in the region, including toward Taiwan, the White House said in a statement.

But Xi maintained a hardline tone on Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Taiwan, which he said were matters of "sovereignty and territorial integrity."

It was Xi's first call with a U.S. president since he spoke with former President Donald Trump last March.

Since then, relations between the two countries have plunged to their worst level in decades, with Trump blaming China for the global health crisis, launching a trade war, sanctioning Chinese officials and firms perceived to be security threats, and challenging Beijing's territorial claims in the South China Sea.

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

But the Biden administration has made clear it will continue to maintain pressure on China, while also pledging a more multilateral approach.

A senior Biden official said the administration will look at adding new targeted restrictions on certain sensitive tech exports to China, and there would be no quick moves to lift Trump's tariffs on Chinese imports.

Video Transcript

- US President Joe Biden spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping for the first time since coming into office on Wednesday evening. Biden stressed human rights concerns and the importance of a free and open Indo-Pacific, while Xi warned that a confrontation between the two nations would be a disaster. Xi also urged that the two sides should re-establish the means to avoid misjudgments, according to the Chinese foreign ministry's account of the call.

Biden emphasized what he called Beijing's coercive and unfair practices, including its crackdown in Hong Kong, reported human rights abuses in Xinjiang, and increasingly assertive actions in the region, including toward Taiwan, the White House said in a statement. But Xi maintained a hard line tone on Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and Taiwan, which he said were matters of sovereignty and territorial integrity. It was Xi's first call with a US president since he spoke with former President Donald Trump last March.

Since then, relations between the two countries have plunged to their worst level in decades, with Trump blaming China for the global health crisis, launching a trade war, sanctioning Chinese officials and firms perceived to be security threats, and challenging Beijing's territorial claims in the South China Sea. Chinese officials have expressed cautious optimism that bilateral relations will improve under Biden and urged Washington to meet Beijing halfway. But the Biden administration has made clear it will continue to maintain pressure on China, while also pledging a more multilateral approach. A senior Biden official said the administration will look at adding new targeted restrictions on certain sensitive tech exports to China, and there would be no quick moves to lift Trump's tariffs on Chinese imports.