Biden discusses Taiwan issue with China’s Xi Jinping, trying to avoid ‘conflict’

The White House said President Joe Biden objected to China’s “increasingly aggressive and coercive measures” toward Taiwan and raised human rights concerns about Beijing’s behavior in Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong during his first in-person meeting Monday with President Xi Jinping.

At a press conference after the meeting, Biden reiterated the United States’ support for its long-standing “one China” policy. He also said that despite the recent clattering of Chinese swords, he did not believe “there is any imminent attempt on the part of China to invade Taiwan”.

“You should never get to that,” Biden added.

US President Joe Biden (R) and Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) meet on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Nusa Dua on the Indonesian resort island of Bali on November 14, 2022 (Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

The meeting, in the midst of Biden’s seven-day trip around the world, came as the superpowers aim to “manage” differences among themselves as they vie for global influence amid heightened economic and security tensions. Speaking to reporters, Biden said the United States would “compete aggressively, but I’m not looking for conflict,” adding, “I absolutely believe there is no need for a new Cold War” with China.

The White House said Biden and Xi also agreed that “a nuclear war should never be fought ‘it cannot be won'” and stressed their opposition to the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine. That was a reference to Russian officials’ covert threats to use atomic weapons as its invasion of Ukraine stalled. which lasted about nine months.

Biden and Xi also agreed to “empower key senior officials” in areas of potential cooperation, including addressing climate change, and maintaining global financial, health and food stability. It was not immediately clear if that meant China would agree to resume climate change talks that Beijing halted in protest of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan in August.

Xi and Biden greeted each other with a handshake at a luxury resort hotel in Indonesia, where they are attending the Group of 20 summit of major economies.

“As leaders of our two nations, we share the responsibility, in my view, to show that China and the United States can manage our differences, to prevent competition from becoming anything close to conflict, and to find ways to work together on pressing global issues,” Biden said to open the meeting.

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Xi called on Biden to “chart the right course” and “elevate the relationship” between China and the United States. He said he was ready to “exchange frankly and in-depth” with Biden.

Both men entered the prospective meeting with the political situation at home strengthened. Democrats triumphantly retained control of the US Senate, with a chance to bolster their ranks by one in a runoff in Georgia next month, while Xi was handed a third five-year term in October by tradition’s Communist Party National Convention.

“We just had a little misunderstanding,” Biden told reporters in Cambodia on Sunday, where he took part in a gathering of Southeast Asian nations before leaving for Indonesia. “We just have to figure out where the red lines are and… what are the most important things for each of us over the next couple of years.”

“His circumstances have changed, to declare the obvious, at home,” Biden added. “I know I’m coming stronger,” the president said of his situation.

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FILE – President Joe Biden meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a virtual summit from the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, D.C. on November 15, 2021 (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

White House aides have repeatedly sought to downplay any notion of conflict between the two countries and emphasized that they believe the two countries can work side by side on common challenges such as climate change and health security.

However, relations have become more tense under successive US administrations, as economic and trade disputes, human rights and security have emerged.

As president, Biden has repeatedly held China responsible for human rights abuses against Uighurs and other ethnic minorities, crackdowns on democracy activists in Hong Kong, coercive trade practices, military provocations against autonomous Taiwan, and disagreements over Russia’s prosecution of its war. against Ukraine. Chinese officials have largely refrained from public criticism of the Russian war, though Beijing has avoided direct support, such as supplying weapons.

The White House said Biden specifically mentioned US concerns about China’s actions in Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong, and the plight of Americans it deems “unjustly detained” or subject to exit bans in China.

Taiwan has emerged as one of the most contentious issues between Washington and Beijing. Biden has said several times in his presidency that the United States would defend the island — which China is looking to eventually unite — in the event of a Beijing-led invasion. But administration officials have emphasized each time that the US “one China” policy has not changed. That policy recognizes the government in Beijing while allowing informal and defense relations with Taipei, and its stance on the “strategic ambiguity” of whether it would respond militarily if the island was attacked.

Pelosi’s trip prompted China, officially the People’s Republic of China, to respond with military exercises and ballistic missile launches into nearby waters.

The White House said Biden “raised U.S. objections to the PRC’s increasingly aggressive and coercive measures toward Taiwan, which undermine peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and in the broader region, and endanger global prosperity.”

At the meeting, the White House said China’s economic practices “harm American workers and families and workers and families around the world.”

It came just weeks after the Biden administration banned the export of advanced computer chips to China – a national security move that boosts US competition against Beijing. Chinese officials quickly condemned the restrictions.

And although the two men have had five phone or video calls during Biden’s presidency, White House officials say these encounters are no substitute for Biden being able to meet Xi in person. This task is all the more important after Xi consolidated his hold on power through a party congress, where lower-level Chinese officials were unable or unwilling to speak for their leader.

Before the meeting, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Mao Ning said that China is committed to peaceful coexistence but will resolutely defend its sovereignty, security and development interests.

“It is important for the United States to work with China to properly manage differences, promote mutually beneficial cooperation, avoid misunderstandings and misjudgments, and put China-US relations back on the track of sound and steady development,” she said at a daily briefing. in Beijing.

White House officials and their Chinese counterparts spent weeks negotiating the details of the meeting, which took place at Xi’s hotel with interpreters providing simultaneous interpretation through headphones.

The leaders spoke while sitting facing each other at two long tables more than ten feet apart and an elaborate flower arrangement inside a cavernous, windowless meeting room.

US officials were eager to see how Xi approached Biden’s sit-down after cementing his position as the country’s undisputed leader, saying they would wait to assess whether that made him more or less likely to seek areas of cooperation with the United States.

Each leader was flanked by nine aides wearing N-95 masks, and in Xi’s case, at least one official was recently promoted in Congress to senior command. US officials said that interaction with Xi’s top aides could lead to more substantive engagements in the future.

Before meeting Xi, Biden held talks with Indonesian President Joko Widodo, host of the G-20, to announce a raft of new development initiatives for the archipelago state, including investments in climate, security and education.

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Associated Press writers Josh Bock in Baltimore and Darlene Superville in Washington contributed to this report.

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