Did Joe Biden Say He Won’t Speak Out Against Chinese Genocide? Not Quite

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Anders Hagstrom White House Correspondent
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Critics of President Joe Biden claimed he justified China’s ongoing genocide against Uighur Muslims during his CNN town hall Tuesday night, but that characterization is misleading.

CNN Host Anderson Cooper pressed Biden on the oppression of Uighurs in China’s Xinjiang region, prompting Biden to say he discussed the issue with Chinese Leader Xi Jinping. While Biden did reference “different cultural norms” in his the answer, he confirmed that China will face “repercussions” for its actions and his administration’s official stance is that the Chinese government is carrying out a genocide against the Uighur population. (RELATED: Biden To Sign Order Protecting US Manufacturing As Carrier Strike Group Enters South China Sea)

Some conservative pundits on Twitter implied Biden’s answer justified the genocide as simply an issue of differing “norms,” but Biden was instead explaining Xi’s position on the genocide.

“We must speak up for human rights. It’s who we are,” Biden began, before discussing his call with Xi. “I said, look — Chinese leaders, if you know anything about Chinese history, it has always been the time when China has been victimized by the outer world is when they haven’t been unified at home.”

“So the central, to vastly overstate it, the central principle of Xi Jingping is that there must be a united, tightly controlled China. And he uses his rationale for the things he does based on that,” Biden added.

He then laid out what American “norms” and culture demanded of an American leader.

“I point out to him: No American president can be sustained as a president if he doesn’t reflect the values of the United States. And so the idea that I’m not going to speak out against what he’s doing in Hong Kong, what he’s doing with the Uighurs … and Taiwan, trying to end the One-China policy … by the way, he said he gets it,” Biden said.

“Culturally, there are different norms that each country and their leaders are expected to follow,” Biden added.

“There will be repercussions for China, and he knows that,” Biden said.

Countering China on the global stage is among one of the top priorities for the Biden administration. The president ordered the Department of Defense to create a task force to review all policy and force posture with regard to China to make the U.S. more effective in countering its goals.

“If we don’t get moving, they’re going to eat our lunch,” Biden said when announcing the task force February 11. “They have major, major new initiatives on rail, they already have rail that goes 325 miles per hour with ease. They are working very hard to do what I think we’re gonna have to do.”