Caixin
Feb 11, 2021 11:55 AM
WORLD

President Xi Speaks with Biden in First Official Phone Call

Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke with U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday in their first phone call since the latter took office.

The two leaders discussed a wide range of issues, from bilateral economic ties to the Covid-19 pandemic and climate change during the conversation, which took place Beijing time in the morning of Chinese New Year's Eve, according to China’s state broadcaster CCTV.

The call came amid high tensions between the two countries and is seen as a signal of starting to reshape bilateral relations after four years of drastic deterioration.

Both leaders extended greetings to the other for the Lunar New Year. Xi called for cooperation between the two countries to improve bilateral ties. “The two countries should move toward each other … and make joint efforts to focus on cooperation and manage differences to promote healthy relations,” the Chinese president was cited as saying in an official statement.

Xi said the two countries could open up more contact in economic, financial, law enforcement and military spheres, and called for “re-establishing” dialogue to foster mutual understanding and “avoid misunderstandings and misjudgments.”

“Chinese-U.S. cooperation can achieve many great things that benefit both countries and the whole world. Confrontation between China and the U.S. would certainly be a disaster for both countries and the world,” said Xi.

Biden “committed to pursuing practical, results-oriented engagements when it advances the interests of the American people and those of our allies,” according to a statement published by the White House.

Xi and Biden have pledged to find common ground where they can, including on topics such as climate change.

China has generally approached the U.S. cautiously since Biden’s election and Trump’s unprecedented campaign to challenge the result. While Xi sent Biden a congratulatory message in late November, he hasn’t spoken with a sitting U.S. president since last March. Soon after that last call, Washington and Beijing launched into a series of disputes that saw their relationship sink to its lowest point in decades.

Even with the handover of leadership in Washington, the relationship between the two countries is unlikely to see a radical change, experts said.

Several Chinese experts have said Biden’s cabinet picks indicate that the new administration will continue to be tough on China with a focus on intense competition.

Biden’s policy would fall somewhere between the 44th U.S. President Barack Obama’s engagement approach and Trump’s decoupling strategy, with a focus on competition with Beijing, while enhancing cooperation with America’s regional allies in containing China, Gao Ruidong, chief macroeconomist at Everbright Securities Co. Ltd., said in a Caixin column.

In his first foreign policy address since assuming office, Biden vowed to take on challenges posed by China, describing it as America’s “most serious competitor,” but also signaled hopes for cooperation in a manner beneficial to Washington.

Luo Meihan and Bloomberg contributed to the story

Contact reporter Han Wei (weihan@caixin.com) and editor Doug Young (dougyoung@caixin.com)

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