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The Biden-Xi Call

Chinese President Xi Jinping makes statements to the press following his meeting with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis at the Maximos Mansion in Athens, Greece, November 11, 2019. (Aris Messinis/Pool via Reuters)

Bloomberg is reporting that Joe Biden’s first call with Xi Jinping, the general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, could take place as soon as this evening. That conversation would follow Antony Blinken’s call with Yang Jiechi, the Chinese party-state’s highest-ranking foreign-affairs official, on Friday.

If Blinken’s conversation with Yang is any indication, the Biden-Xi call can be expected to be frosty; the State Department said that the secretary of state “stressed the United States will continue to stand up for human rights and democratic values, including in Xinjiang, Tibet, and Hong Kong,” in addition to emphasizing Chinese accountability for its actions with regard to regional stability, Taiwan, and international order.

Still, Blinken and Biden both have stated a desire to work with Beijing on certain issues where they say that the U.S. and China share common interests, such as climate change. It’s unlikely that Biden will use his first call with the CCP chief to propose such cooperation. Instead, he’s likely to convey a message as adversarial as Blinken’s.

Whether it’s wise to hold such a call at all is another question. As Blinken and Biden have both acknowledged, the Chinese regime is perpetrating crimes against humanity and genocide against the Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples in Xinjiang. And there are other leaders with whom the president should speak before Xi — although he held a call with Benjamin Netanyahu during the transition, Biden, as far as we’re aware, has yet to speak with the Israeli prime minister from the White House.

What will Biden say to Xi? What does one tell an international criminal carrying out mass atrocities?

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