China sidesteps Joe Biden's remark on Xi Jinping lacking 'democratic bone', calls for managing differences

The US president. in a CBS interview, described the Chinese leader as 'very tough and very bright', but also drew attention to his autocratic style of functioning

Press Trust of India February 08, 2021 21:27:51 IST
China sidesteps Joe Biden's remark on Xi Jinping lacking 'democratic bone', calls for managing differences

File image of US president Joe Biden. AP

Beijing: China on Monday chose to ignore US president Joe Biden's comment that his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping lacked a democratic bone in his body but said that the two countries should focus on cooperation and manage differences.

In an interview to CBS television on Saturday, Biden acknowledged that he is yet to speak with President Xi since his swearing in on 20 January, but said he had met him many times when they were vice-presidents of their respective countries in the past.

"I know him pretty well," Biden said, adding that when they do speak, they will have "a whole lot to talk about."

Biden described Xi as "very bright" and "very tough" but without "a democratic, small D, bone in his body", highlighting the autocratic style of functioning of the Chinese leader.

Asked for his reaction to Biden's remark, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin evaded a direct reply.

"President Xi Jinping has had many contacts with President Biden. Maintaining communication between China and the US at all levels is conducive to mutual understanding and to the development of bilateral relations,” he said.

"China is committed to developing a relationship with the US that is non-conflictual, based on non-confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation," he said.

"Meanwhile, China will continue to firmly safeguard its national sovereignty, security and development interests. The two sides should meet each other halfway, focus on cooperation, manage differences, and promote the sound and steady development of China-US relations, to the greater benefit of their two peoples and to the people of all other countries around the world," he said.

After the Biden administration assumed power last month, speculation was rife about the likely course of policy the US president would pursue in the light of hardline Beijing policy pursued by his predecessor Donald Trump during which the ties between the world''s two largest economies touched a new low.

Top diplomats of the two countries had their first contacts on the Saturday last.

Newly-appointed Secretary of State Antony Blinken and senior Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi held what observers here said was a blunt and outspoken conversation over the phone during which both sides sought to highlight the issues of concerns that will shape the ties between the top two economies of the world in the next four years.

Yang, a member of the Politburo of the ruling Communist Party of China and director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the CPC, is Beijing''s point man for Washington.

While Blinken told Yang that the Biden administration will hold China accountable for its abuses of the international system and raised with him the issue of human rights violations in Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong and Myanmar, the Chinese diplomat said both sides should respect each other's core interests and choices of political system.

Yang said the US "should rectify its mistakes made over a period of time," in an apparent reference to hardline policies pursued by the Trump administration towards China, pushing the ties between the two countries to a new low.

He said the US should work with China to uphold the spirit of no conflict, no confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation.

The Taiwan question, the most important and sensitive core issue in China-US relations, bears on China's sovereignty and territorial integrity, Yang told Blinken.

China considers Taiwan as part of its mainland and apprehends that the US is stepping its engagement with Taipei with military and political assistance.

The US should strictly abide by the one-China principle, Yang said, adding that Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Tibet-related affairs are all China's internal affairs and allow no interference by any external forces.

Any attempt to slander and smear China will not succeed, and China will continue to firmly safeguard its sovereignty, security and development interests, Yang said.

He urged the US to play a constructive role in promoting peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region involving the disputed South China Sea, where America looks to step up its engagement with allies to contain Beijing.

China claims almost all of the 1.3 million square-mile South China Sea as its sovereign territory. China has been building military bases on artificial islands in the region also claimed by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

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