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China will ‘eat our lunch,’ Biden warns after clashing with Xi on most fronts


US President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping held their first telephone call as leaders and appeared at odds on most issues, even as Xi warned that confrontation would be a “disaster” for both nations.

While Xi has called for “win-win” cooperation, Biden has called China America’s “most serious competitor” and vowed to “out compete” Beijing.

On Thursday, Biden told a bipartisan group of US senators at an Oval Office meeting to discuss the need to upgrade US infrastructure that the United States must raise its game in the face of the Chinese challenge.

Biden said he spoke to Xi for two hours on Wednesday night and warned the senators: “If we don’t get moving, they are going to eat our lunch.”

“They’re investing billions of dollars dealing with a whole range of issues that relate to transportation, the environment and a whole range of other things. We just have to step up.”

The White House said Biden emphasised to Xi it was a US priority to preserve a free and open Indo-Pacific, a region where the United States and China are major strategic rivals.

It said he voiced “fundamental” concerns about Beijing’s “coercive and unfair” trade practices, as well as about human rights issues, including China’s crackdown in Hong Kong and increasingly assertive actions in Asia, including toward Taiwan.

All the rights issues the US president mentioned were ones Beijing has explicitly told the Biden administration it should stay out of.

Xi told Biden confrontation would be a “disaster” and the two sides should re-establish the means to avoid misjudgments, the Chinese foreign ministry said.

Xi maintained a hardline tone regarding Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Taiwan, which he said were matters of “sovereignty and territorial integrity” that he hoped the United States would approach cautiously.

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