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Senior Chinese diplomat talks with Blinken amid debate over competitiveness bill

Senior Chinese diplomat talks with Blinken amid debate over competitiveness bill
© getty: Secretary of State Anthony Blinken

Secretary of State Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenKim says North Korea needs to be 'prepared' for 'confrontation' with US The Senate just passed the next Apollo program Young Turks founder on Democratic establishment: 'They lie nonstop' MORE spoke with China’s top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, on Friday as Congress debates a bill that would ramp up the United States' competitiveness with Beijing. 

A State Department readout of the call showed that Blinken and Yang, the director of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission of China's ruling Communist Party, discussed a slew of contentious issues, including the origins of the coronavirus, Chinese threats against Taiwan and Beijing's treatment of Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang region.

The two diplomats also discussed the need to cooperate to achieve the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

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Chinese state broadcaster CCTV first reported on the conversation between Blinken and Yang.

The call comes amid heightened pressure on the relationship between Washington and Beijing.

The Senate this week passed in a broad bipartisan vote a bill that intends to make the U.S. more competitive with China. Among other things, the legislation would invest about $52 billion into semiconductor production and $81 billion to the National Science Foundation to boost research and development in technology and innovation. The bill would also stand up a fund for the Department of Homeland Security to support companies that are struck by cyberattacks. 

The debate over the legislation coincides with efforts by the Biden administration to pressure Beijing on Taiwan, human rights in Hong Kong, its military presence in the South China Sea, ongoing trade disputes and the treatment of the Uyghur ethnic minority.

Administration officials and lawmakers have also rankled Beijing in recent weeks over renewed focus on the theory that the coronavirus may have first been spread from a lab in Wuhan, China after it was reported that researchers there came down with flu-like symptoms shortly before the virus spread across the globe.

President BidenJoe BidenObama: Ensuring democracy 'continues to work effectively' keeps me 'up at night' New Jersey landlords prohibited from asking potential tenants about criminal records Overnight Defense: Pentagon pulling some air defense assets from Middle East | Dems introduce resolution apologizing to LGBT community for discrimination | White House denies pausing military aid package to Ukraine MORE is expected to rally allies behind a common approach to combatting China during his trip to Europe to meet with the Group of Seven, NATO and other European leaders.

Updated at 10:28 a.m.