President Joe Biden says he is ready for “extreme competition” with China but that his approach would be different to his predecessor.
“I’m not going to do it the way Trump did. We are going to focus on the international rules of the road,” Biden told CBS on Sunday. “We need not have a conflict.”
Biden said he has not yet spoken to China’s Xi Jinping since taking office.
“I know him pretty well,” Biden said, explaining that as vice-president he spent more time with Xi than any world leader has.
“He’s very bright and he’s very tough and – I don’t mean it as a criticism it’s just a reality – he doesn’t have a democratic bone in his body.”
Tensions between Beijing and Washington soared under the Trump administration as he blamed China for a wide range of grievances, including intellectual property theft, unfair trade practices and recently the coronavirus pandemic.
Last week, Biden said he would work more closely with allies to increase pushback against China.
“We will confront China’s economic abuses,” Biden explained. “But we’re also ready to work with Beijing when it’s in America’s interest to do so. We’ll compete from a position of strength by building back better at home and working with our allies and partners.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken talked for the first time with his Chinese counterpart, Yang Jiechi, over the weekend.
In a tense call, Blinken told Yang Washington would hold China accountable for its actions, particularly as it regards Taiwan. He also called for Beijing to condemn the recent military coup in Myanmar.
During his Senate confirmation hearing, Blinken told lawmakers that Trump had been right in taking a tough approach to China, saying, “I disagree very much with the way that he went about it in a number of areas, but the basic principle was the right one.”