Biden on Not Calling Xi: ‘Haven’t Had Occasion to Talk’
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, D.C. (Photographer: Stefani Reynolds/The New York Times/Bloomberg)

Biden on Not Calling Xi: ‘Haven’t Had Occasion to Talk’

President Joe Biden said there was no particular reason why he hadn’t yet spoken with China’s Xi Jinping, and promised a different kind of relationship with Beijing from his predecessor.

“Well, we haven’t had occasion to talk to one another yet,” Biden said Sunday in a interview with CBS recorded Friday. “There’s no reason not to call him.”

Biden added that he knew Xi “pretty well” after eight years as Barack Obama’s vice president. “I’ve probably spent more time with Xi Jinping I’m told than any world leader has,” he said.

Biden on Not Calling Xi: ‘Haven’t Had Occasion to Talk’

Biden said his approach to China will be different from that of former President Donald Trump and that Xi knows that because he’s been “sending signals, as well.”

“We need not have a conflict, but there’s going to be extreme competition,” Biden said on “Face the Nation.” More of the interview will run during the CBS Super Bowl pre-game show around 4 p.m. Eastern time.

He added, though, that China’s leader “doesn’t have a democratic, small ‘d,’ bone in his body,” repeating a line he had used on the campaign trail.

Biden has held calls with multiple world leaders since he took office on Jan. 20, including with Russian President Vladimir Putin, but so far not with Xi. The Chinese president was among the last world leaders to congratulate Biden on his election victory over Trump in November.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin sidestepped questions on Monday about Biden’s criticism of Xi and emphasized the need to work together. “The two sides should work toward the same goal, focus on cooperation, manage differences and promote sound, steady development of bilateral ties,” Wang told a regular news briefing in Beijing, noting that the two presidents’ “paths crossed many times before.”

Since the Biden administration began, the highest level of communications between the world’s largest economies was a phone conversation between Secretary of State Antony Blinken and top Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi on Friday. During the call, the two diplomats sparred on democracy and human rights issues.

Cui Tiankai, the Chinese ambassador to the U.S., said tough talk was “not the right way of doing diplomacy,” when asked about the Blinken-Yang phone call in a CNN interview aired Sunday.

“You don’t have effective foreign policy just by talking tough, or playing tough,” he said on “Fareed Zakaria GPS.” “I think there’s a clear need for a good sense of mutual respect.”

Biden has so far signaled a desire to continue international pressure on China over its human rights practices, while China has repeatedly said the two countries should look for areas for cooperation.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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