© Reuters. U.S. President Joe Biden visits the State Department in Washington

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told top Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi in a phone call on Friday the United States will stand up for human rights and democratic values in Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong, the State Department said.

Blinken also pressed China to condemn the military coup in Myanmar, and he reaffirmed that Washington will work with allies to hold China accountable for efforts to threaten stability of Indo-Pacific, including across the Taiwan Strait, the department said in a statement.

The relationship between the world’s two biggest economies hit its lowest point in decades during the presidency of Donald Trump, and Chinese officials have expressed cautious optimism that it would improve under the administration of Joe Biden.

Yang told an online forum on Tuesday that he hoped relations between the two countries could return to a predictable and constructive track, but he called on the United States to “stop interfering” on issues of Chinese sovereignty, including Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Tibet.

Foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin also said on Friday that “the common interests of the two countries outweighed their differences” and urged the United States to “meet China halfway” to improve relations.

However, criticism of China’s human rights record has continued unabated, with the State Department saying on Thursday that it was “deeply disturbed” by reports of sexual abuse against women in internment camps for ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims in Xinjiang..

Biden himself has shown little sign he is in a hurry to engage with Beijing, describing China on Thursday as “our most serious competitor” and saying Washington would continue to confront what he described as China’s “attack on human rights, intellectual property and global governance”.

“But we’re ready to work with Beijing, when it’s in America’s interest to do so,” he added.

The Global Times, a tabloid run by Chinese Communist Party paper the People’s Daily, said in an editorial on Saturday that it expected the Biden administration to keep talking tough while improving cooperation in some areas.

“This is obviously different from the later period of Trump’s administration, which had only hyped up antagonism between China and the U.S.,” it said.

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