- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 25, 2021

President Biden said Thursday he will not allow China to become the world’s most powerful nation and promised to hold Beijing accountable for human rights abuses and aggressive action in the Asian seas.

Mr. Biden, in his first press conference since taking office, disclosed new details of a two-hour conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping in February, during which he told the Chinese Communist leader the United States would oppose Chinese repression.

“And I said, ‘Mr. President, as I told you before, Americans value the notion of freedom, America values human rights,’” Mr. Biden said. “And as long as you and your country continues to so blatantly violate human rights, we are going to continue in an unrelenting way to call to the attention of the world and make it clear what’s happening.’ And he understood that.”

The ideological battle now underway is between “autocracy and democracy” not only with China but with other authoritarian states, the president added.

During a meeting of recent regional allies Australia, India, Japan, the so-called “Quad” of Indo-Pacific nations, the president announced he planned to “hold China accountable in the region.

A future meeting of the Quad is planned for the United States.

“We’re going to make it clear that, in order to deal with these things, we are going to hold China accountable to follow the rules, whether it relates to the South China Sea or the north China Sea or the agreement made on Taiwan or a whole range of other things,” Mr. Biden said.

On Chinese human rights abuses, Mr. Biden said no American president would back down from speaking out against the repression of the China ethnic Uyghurs, a predominantly Muslim minority in western China where as many as 1 million have been placed in detention camps.

He also said the United States opposes China’s crackdown on democracy in Hong Kong.

Mr. Biden accused former President Trump of “walking away” from speaking out against Chinese repression and said it had caused the United States to “lose legitimacy.”

Mr. Biden said he does not criticize China’s government for having the overall goal of becoming the leading economic and military power in the world.

“But that is not going to happen on my watch,” he said, noting continued U.S. growth and expansion.

The president noted that he expected “steep, steep competition” with Beijing and would demand China following international rules and norms in trade and other relations.

The president said he told the Chinese leader the United States would “deal effectively” with China through investing in American workers and U.S. technology.

U.S. alliances also will seek to be strengthened in the competition with China.

Mr. Biden repeated earlier comments during his presidential election campaign about having a close relationship with Mr. Xi developed during his time as vice president. “Doesn’t have a democrat – with a small d – bone in his body but he’s a smart, smart guy,” Mr. Biden said.

• Bill Gertz can be reached at bgertz@washingtontimes.com.

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