Washington, Feb 11 (efe-epa).- President Joe Biden said Thursday that his first telephone conversation with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, lasted two hours and he came away from it with the conclusion that China will “eat our lunch” regarding infrastructure and other issues if this country does not “step up.”
Biden met with reporters in the Oval Office and told them that his talk with Xi lasted for “two straight hours,” adding that Beijing is pursuing major infrastructure projects.
“It was a good conversation. I know him well. We spent a lot of time together over the years I was vice president. But if we don’t get moving, they’re going to eat our lunch,” Biden said, noting that China is pouring billions of dollars into transportation and environmental projects. The US leader emphasized that China is undertaking significant high-speed railroad projects and automobile manufacturing initiatives, along with reforms to protect the environment.
“We just have to step up,” emphasized Biden, who wants Congress to approve more funding to update US infrastructure, with almost half the country’s highways and a third of its bridges requiring repairs, according to some estimates.
The president made no further remarks to reporters about his phone call with Xi, which was the first between the leaders of the world’s two largest economies since Biden came into office on Jan. 20.
The phone call was a first step to try and repair certain aspects of the US-China relationship, which deteriorated drastically during the presidency of Donald Trump, although the White House has made clear that there are many obstacles to overcome in Washington’s ties with Beijing.
During their conversation, Biden emphasized his “fundamental concerns about Beijing’s coercive and unfair economic practices, crackdown in Hong Kong, human rights abuse in Xinjiang and increasingly assertive actions in the region, including toward Taiwan,” the White House said in a statement.
Biden also discussed with Xi efforts to fight the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as managing the “shared challenges of global health security, climate change and preventing weapons proliferation,” the White House said.
“President Biden committed to pursuing practical, results-oriented engagements when it advances the interests of the American people and those of our allies,” as well as keeping the Indo-Pacific maritime area “free and open.”
For his part, Xi warned Biden that an ongoing “confrontation” between the two powers “without doubt would be a catastrophe for the two countries and the world,” according to China’s state-run Xinhua news agency.
Bilateral clashes in areas like trade, diplomacy and technology were ongoing issues during Trump’s mandate, and although Biden has promised to focus US policy differently than his predecessor, his administration does not seem to be in a hurry to completely end Trump’s trade war with Beijing.