President Joe Biden said there was no particular reason why he hadn’t yet spoken with Chinese President 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 on Friday. “There’s no reason not to call him.”
Biden added that he knows 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 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.”
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.
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 his Chinese counterpart 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 talks are “not the right way of doing diplomacy,” when asked about the Blinken-Yang phone call in a CNN interview aired on 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.