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China will face repercussions for human-rights abuses, says Biden

WASHINGTON: There will be “repercussions” for China for its human rights violations, US President Joe Biden warned on Tuesday, outlining a tough but more nuanced continuation of the Trump administration‘s hardline policy towards Beijing.
Separately, the Biden White House announced a “recalibration” of Washington’s ties with long-time US ally Saudi Arabia, saying the President will engage with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz rather than Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a Trump family favorite.
Biden’s spelled out his China policy at a townhall meeting when asked about the Uighur issue, saying for Beijing to acquire the title of a world leader that it is trying to get it would have to gain the confidence of other countries. “As long as they are engaged in activity that is contrary to basic human rights, it is going to be hard for them to do that,” he added.
The US President described a two hour phone call with China’s President Xi Jinping in which he emphasized the US priority of preserving a free and open Indo-Pacific region, where the United States and China are major strategic rivals, and where Washington says India too has a stake.
Biden also expressed concern about China’s “coercive and unfair” trade practices and rights issues, such as its Hong Kong crackdown, the Xinjiang internments, and increasingly assertive actions in Asia, including towards Taiwan. He did not mention India and its troubles with China.
Despite drawing a tough line on China’s human rights abuses, the US President took flak for suggesting in course of his meandering response that Beijing’s treatment of Uyghurs could be part of a “cultural norm.”
Beyond such slips though, the Biden administration is building on the Trump era drive to restore US primacy, particularly in the technology field, by freeing supply chains from China’s stranglehold. One important difference in the Biden approach to China is forsaking Trump’s go-it-alone policy in favor of working with allies, particularly partners in Europe.
“When we’re in the business of picking fights with our allies instead of working with them, that takes away from our strength in dealing with China,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in an interview with NPR.
Separately, the new administration is also signaling that alliances will not be personality or personal relationship based, but downgrading Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Sultan, whose close friendship with the Trump family drove the ties, and helped him overcome the stigma of the gruesome murder of Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Tuesday that Biden would return to “counterpart to counterpart” engagement.
“The president’s counterpart is King Salman and I expect at an appropriate time he will have a conversation with him. I don’t have a prediction on the timeline for that,” she said.

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