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Joe Biden says Xi Jinping doesn’t have democratic ‘bone in his body’

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President Joe Biden signaled he is looking to reset U.S.-China policy from the Trump administration, saying the two nations can avoid a conflict, even as he claimed Chinese President Xi Jinping is lacking a democratic ‘bone in his body.’

Biden said he didn’t mean the line as criticism – but he leveled as his administration began to press China on Hong Kong, its handling of Tibet, and its treatment of Uighurs on its western frontier.

Biden acknowledged in an interview with CBS that Xi, who consolidated power in 2018 when the National People’s Congress removed term limits and effectively made him president ‘for life,’  is no democrat.

President Joe Biden said of China's President Xi Jinping: 'he doesn't have a democratic, small-D, bone in his body'

President Joe Biden said of China’s President Xi Jinping: ‘he doesn’t have a democratic, small-D, bone in his body’

But he sought to hold out at least the potential that the U.S. and China could get on a more cooperative footing, even as the two nations clash on trade and China’s ambitions as a rival global power.

‘He’s very bright,’ Biden said of Xi. ‘He’s very tough. He doesn’t have – and I don’t mean it as a criticism, just the reality, he doesn’t have a democratic, small-D, bone in his body. But … the question is, I’ve said to him all along, that we need not have a conflict.’

‘But there’s going to be extreme competition. And I’m not going to do it the way that he knows. And that’s because he’s – sending signals as well. I’m not going to do it the way Trump did. We’re going to focus on international rules of the road,’ he said. 

Biden also explained why he hasn’t yet phoned his counterpart, who he met numerous times when serving as vice president during the Obama Administration. He also previously chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

‘We haven’t had occasion to talk to him yet,’ said Biden. ‘There’s no reason not to call him. I probably spent more time with Xi Jinping, I’m told, than any world leader has because I had 24, 25 hours of private meetings with him when I was vice president,’ he said. ‘Traveled 17,000 miles with him. I know him pretty well.’

Biden made the comments in an interview with CBS

Biden made the comments in an interview with CBS

Biden said he has probably spent more time with Xi than any other national leader has

Biden said he has probably spent more time with Xi than any other national leader has

ROUGH PATCH: The U.S. and China have clashed over its human rights record, intellectual property rights, and the trade deficit

ROUGH PATCH: The U.S. and China have clashed over its human rights record, intellectual property rights, and the trade deficit

U.S. President Joe Biden departs form St. Joseph on the Brandywine Catholic Church after Mass in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S., February 7, 2021

U.S. President Joe Biden departs form St. Joseph on the Brandywine Catholic Church after Mass in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S., February 7, 2021

Chinese soldiers march past Tiananmen Square before a military parade on September 3, 2015 in Beijing, China

Chinese soldiers march past Tiananmen Square before a military parade on September 3, 2015 in Beijing, China

His comments to the network are part of an effort to make U.S.-China relations more predictable and hopefully cooperative, after years of clashing over trade as well as the coronavirus during the Trump administration.

President Trump fumed at Beijing and blamed it for what he called the ‘China virus,’ which first appeared in Wuhan, China. His tenure featured a contentious trade war, which settled down after a ‘Phase One’ agreement, but U.S. officials continue to blame China for unfair practices.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken phoned China’s Director of the Office of the Central Commission for Foreign Affairs Yang Jiechi Friday. According to State Department spokesman Ned Price, Blinken raised a number of issues that are flashpoints.

Blinken ‘stressed the United States will continue to stand up for human rights and democratic values, including in Xinjiang, Tibet, and Hong Kong, and pressed China to join the international community in condemning the military coup in Burma,’ he said. ‘The Secretary reaffirmed that the United States will work together with its allies and partners in defense of our shared values and interests to hold the PRC accountable for its efforts to threaten stability in the Indo-Pacific, including across the Taiwan Strait, and its undermining of the rules-based international system.’

Biden’s comments on China emerged when CBS released a second part of his pre-Super Bowl interview, a tradition for presidents to get their views out before the big game.

Earlier Sunday, he visited church near his home in Wilmington, where he is spending his first weekend away from the White House as president. 

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