President Biden on Wednesday spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping, marking the first time the two leaders have spoken since Biden took office three weeks ago.
The White House said in a readout that Biden “committed to pursuing practical, results-oriented engagements when it advances the interests of the American people and those of our allies.”
“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 stated. “The two leaders also exchanged views on countering the COVID-19 pandemic, and the shared challenges of global health security, climate change, and preventing weapons proliferation. President Biden committed to pursuing practical, results-oriented engagements when it advances the interests of the American people and those of our allies.”
Biden also extended his well wishes for the Lunar New Year, according to the readout.
The call between Biden and Xi was highly anticipated given tensions between the U.S. and China during the Trump administration. Some of those issues have carried over into the new administration, particularly around Beijing’s human rights record and its handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which originated in the Wuhan province of China.
The call came on the same day that Biden announced the creation of the Department of Defense China task force to study the U.S. military’s strategy and operation in Asia, technology, force posture, intelligence, the role of allies and partnerships in the region, and defense relations with China, among other areas.
“We need to meet the growing challenges posed by China to keep peace and defend our interests in the Indo-Pacific and globally,” Biden said at the Pentagon in his first official visit to the building as president.
Biden faces looming questions over whether he will maintain tariffs on Beijing imposed under the previous administration. The Biden White House must also decide how to respond to China’s treatment of Muslim Uighurs, which the Trump administration determined was genocide.