WASHINGTON—President Biden spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping for the first time since taking office in a call in which he said he raised issues of human rights, trade policy and international security that divide the two countries while also holding open the possibility of working together on climate change and nuclear proliferation.
The call, Wednesday night in Washington, came after Mr. Biden in recent days spoke with a host of allies in Europe and Asia, signaling that he seeks to deal with China as the leader of the world’s democracies rather than solely an American president. The U.S. needs to “join together with others to hold China accountable for its abuses and to shape China’s choices going forward,” said a senior administration official.
A White House statement said Mr. Biden raised his “fundamental concerns about Beijing’s coercive and unfair economic practices,” as well as human rights issues and “preserving a free and open Indo-Pacific” region. But it said the leaders discussed cooperation on fighting Covid-19, climate change and other issues.
“I told him I will work with China when it benefits the American people,” Mr. Biden tweeted.
The Chinese leader reiterated Beijing’s view that “cooperation is the only correct choice for both sides,” according to a readout from Chinese state media. He said that the U.S. and China should work together on issues such as efforts to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, spur a global economic recovery and maintain regional stability.
“China and the U.S. will have different views on certain issues and the key is to respect each other, treat each other equally, and to manage and deal with the issues in a constructive manner,” Mr. Xi was quoted as saying.
Messrs. Biden and Xi have long known each other, and U.S. officials hope the familiarity yields results. At the same time, Mr. Biden is facing pressure to take a tough stand, as Republicans and Democrats increasingly view China as an adversary. Mr. Biden last week called China “our most serious competitor.”
The Biden-Xi conversation came the same day that Mr. Biden launched a Pentagon review of the national security aspects of the administration’s China strategy, as part of a broader effort to determine its approach to countering Beijing.
Mr. Biden has argued that focusing on allies gives the U.S. an advantage in its competition with China. The strategy is