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Blinken holds first call with Chinese counterpart

Blinken holds first call with Chinese counterpart
© CARLOS BARRIA/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Secretary of State Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenSunday shows - Fauci dominates with remarks on vaccines, boosters, masks and Jordan Blinken says US will 'have the means' to monitor terrorist threats after troops leave Afghanistan Blinken pushes back on criticism to Afghanistan withdrawal: 'We achieved the objectives that we set out to achieve' MORE spoke with his Chinese counterpart Friday, the first conversation between the two diplomats amid an adjustment in the relationship between Washington and Beijing. 

Blinken had a phone call with Chinese Director of the Office of the Central Commission for Foreign Affairs Yang Jiechi to extend his best wishes for a happy lunar new year, according to a readout of the call from the State Department. The secretary of State pushed Yang on reports of human rights abuses against Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang and the crackdown of civil rights in Tibet and Hong Kong, among other security-related issues.

“Secretary 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,” the State Department said.

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“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 [People's Republic of China] 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,” it added. 

The conversation comes at a time of uncertainty in the relationship between the U.S. and China in the new Biden administration.

President Biden has adopted a tough stance on China over its crackdown on human rights and violence against the Uighurs, as well as its economic pressure on the U.S.

“American leadership must meet this new moment of advancing authoritarianism, including the growing ambitions of China to rival the United States,” Biden said this week at the State Department. “We'll confront China's economic abuses; counter its aggressive, coercive action; to push back on China's attack on human rights, intellectual property, and global governance.”

Biden is also reviewing his predecessor’s decision to designate China’s oppression of its minority Muslim Uighurs as genocide, though that review is being conducted to ensure procedures were followed, not to dispute the severity of the crackdown.

However, Biden has also expressed openness to working with China on climate change.

The interests of Washington and Beijing are intersecting in Myanmar, where a military coup is underway against a nascent democratic government. Biden is leaning on the military to stand down, but experts say he may be wary of applying too much pressure for fear of pushing the country further into China’s arms.