Biden won’t deal with Xi or China like Trump did

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When it comes to America’s relationship with China, President Joe Biden plans to handle Chinese President Xi Jinping differently than his predecessor.

“ [There’s] a lot to talk about, a whole lot to talk about,” Biden told CBS News’ Norah O’Donnell in an excerpt that aired Sunday on “Face the Nation.” “He’s very bright. He’s very tough. He doesn’t have — and I don’t mean this as a criticism, just the reality — he doesn’t have a democratic ‘small D’ bone in his body.”

“The question is, I’ve said to him all along, that we need not have a conflict,” he added, in explaining how he would relate to Xi differently than former President Donald Trump did. “But there’s gonna be extreme competition. And I’m not going to do it the way he knows. And that’s because he’s sending signals as well. I’m not gonna do it the way Trump did. We’re gonna focus on international rules of the road.”

But Biden hasn’t actually spoken with Xi since taking office in January, saying: “We haven’t had occasion to talk to him yet. There’s no reason not to call him.”

Biden’s policies on U.S.-China relations have already been tested since the Democrat took office last month — from undoing tariffs and sanctions put in place by Trump, to fallout from the military coup in Myanmar. And how the administration moves forward in these first months is likely to set the expectations for the U.S. going forward.

In his back pocket, he also has his longstanding relationship with Xi. Over the course of his vice presidency, Biden notes he spent more time with Xi than most world leaders.

“I had 24, 25 hours of private meetings with him when I was vice president,” Biden said. “Traveled 17,000 miles with him. I know him pretty well.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said on “Face the Nation” that China will be one of the biggest international challenges facing Biden.

“He’s going to have three problems here: what to do with Iran differently than Trump, what to do with China different than Trump and how to change Trump immigration policies without creating a run on the border,” Graham said. “I would caution President Biden because Trump did it doesn’t mean it’s wrong.”

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