Biden and Xi to Meet as Tensions Grow Around Taiwan, Nuclear, and Russia

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Taiwan

President Biden has indicated he won’t make any “fundamental concessions” on Taiwan, though having a meeting offers the two leaders a chance to meet face to face. The two men will also likely discuss trade, human rights, and North Korea.

Taiwan
Xi Jinping, China’s president, speaks during the unveiling of the Communist Party of China’s new Politburo Standing Committee at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, on Sunday, Oct. 23, 2022. President Xi Jinping stacked China’s most powerful body with his allies, giving him unfettered control over the world’s second-largest economy. [Bloomberg]

Taiwan’s Sovereignty, Chinese Influence, and US Support

President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping will meet on Monday before Indonesia’s Group of 20 summit. Mr. Biden and his advisers said that the primary objective of this meeting would be to set expectations with the Chinese as tensions rise over issues like Taiwan and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The first in-person meeting between the two since Mr. Biden assumed office would occur after the president attends a climate conference in Egypt and another stop in Cambodia this week.  In Cambodia, he plans to meet with the leaders of Southeast Asian nations as part of a larger effort to strengthen ties that could help counter China’s influence in the region.

Jake Sullivan, the president’s national security adviser, said that Mr. Biden “will get to sit in the same room with Xi Jinping, be direct and honest with Xi as he always been, and expect the same from Xi in return.”

A senior administration source on the condition of anonymity also repeated what the president said at a news conference on Wednesday, that he would not make any “fundamental concessions” about US support for Taiwan. Also, China says that Taiwan is part of its land and cannot be a sovereign country.

Tiwan
Demonstrators in support of an independent Taiwan protest the arrival of Ma Ying-Jeou, Taiwan’s opposition leader at the Beverly Hills Hotel, 27 March 2006. Ma, tipped as the top contender in 2008 presidential polls, is on a ten day visit to the US promoting Taiwan’s role in Asia. [RICH SCHMITT/AFP/Getty Images]

US-Chinese relations

Mr. Biden and Mr. Xi will also probably talk about trade, human rights, and North Korea.

Setting up a meeting gives Mr. Biden, a politician who thinks face-to-face meetings are essential, a chance to set new boundaries with a leader he sees more as an enemy from the Cold War than as the skeptical rival he once knew. Since their first meet over a 10 years ago, Mr. Xi has tightened his grip on power at home and become more aggressive as a global opponent, even though he was physically more isolated during the coronavirus crisis.

During a news conference on Wednesday, Mr. Biden said that he wants to set “red lines” in how the US works with China, look at the US’s most vital interests, and “find out if they conflict or not.” And if they do, how do they work it out and solve it?”

Low expectations. According to a senior White House official, the meeting will be about “creating a floor” in US-China relations, and the president will be honest about his worries. After their meeting, the two leaders won’t make a joint statement.

Taiwan
North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un before a meeting with US President Donald Trump on the south side of the Military Demarcation Line that divides North and South Korea, in the Joint Security Area (JSA) of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized zone (DMZ) on June 30, 2019. [BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images]

Growing threats

Mr. Biden is the most recent president of the United States to say something clear about Taiwan. He has said four times that the US military will help Taiwan if China attacks, even though other American officials have said this is not a formal policy. As China takes military steps to change the status quo, the president has kept sending US naval ships through the Taiwan Strait. His administration has also told Taiwan to stockpile weapons to fight off an invasion by the People’s Liberation Army.

Senior advisers to Mr. Biden have said he has been “direct and honest” with China when discussing the US’s interest in Taiwan, but Mr. Xi’s threats have been harsher. According to the Chinese foreign ministry, he told Mr. Biden during a marathon call in July, “Those who play with fire will perish by it.”

Since taking office, Mr. Biden has spoken with Mr. Xi five times. He likes to talk about how much time and distance he has spent with the Chinese leader, even though his administration has tried to limit China’s ability to reach its technical and military goals. So, Beijing has criticized those efforts.

Last month, Mr. Biden wrote in a national security strategy document that China “is the only country with the will to reshape the international order and, increasingly, the diplomatic, economic, military, diplomatic, and technical capacity to do so.” The Pentagon’s security plan, unveiled at the end of last month, portrayed China as a growing threat by emphasizing its efforts to strengthen its nuclear munitions.

Still, the Biden administration hopes that Mr. Xi will be open to working together to stop the relationship from worsening. Mr. Biden and his advisers have said that the two countries might be able to work together to stop North Korea from doing more missile tests and putting jets near the border with South Korea.

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