Saturday, December 9, 2023

Taiwan Remains Key Stumbling Block to Healthy US-China Relations

Biden and Xi did not discuss China’s alleged human rights violations.

President Joe Biden and Chinese Premier Xi Jinping met for the first time in a year Nov. 15 at Filoli Gardens in Woodside, California, to discuss the increasingly fractious US-China relationship.

The meeting was held on the sidelines of the weeklong Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, which began Nov. 11. Both leaders are expected to meet this week with heads of state from the Indo-Pacific region and global business leaders attending the CEO Summit. Reports from the White House and the Chinese Foreign Ministry differed dramatically on the discussion between the two world leaders.

Xi reportedly took a tough stance with Biden on the issue of Taiwan. China has stated its intent to militarily “reunify” the country sometime over the next four years.

According to the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Xi told Biden: “The Taiwan question remains the most important and most sensitive issue in China-U.S. relations.”

Armed Conflict

“The US should take real actions to honor its commitment of not supporting Taiwan independence, stop arming Taiwan, and support China’s peaceful reunification. China will realize reunification, and this is unstoppable,” Xi told Biden, as reported by the Chinese Foreign Ministry in a press statement.

In his remarks to reporters after the meeting, Biden said he stressed the “importance of peace and stability that Taiwan Straits.” Asked by a reporter if he would continue his promise to support Taiwan in an armed conflict with Taiwan — given that the US is currently supporting Israel in its fight against Hamas, and Ukraine’s struggle against Russia — Biden responded:  “I reiterated what I’ve said since I’ve become president, what every previous president has said. We maintain the agreement that there is a one China policy. I’m not going to change that.”

Biden has long maintained that the US will intervene militarily if China invades Taiwan. At the Nov. 8 Republican debate, former UN Ambassador and presidential hopeful Nikki Haley said the US was not currently militarily equipped to defend Taiwan in an armed conflict with China, especially with a shortfall of ships in the region compared to China.


Biden announced a major breakthrough in the war against opioids, stating that China has agreed to drastically reduce the export of fentanyl chemical ingredients and and pill presses.

“More people in the United States between the ages of 18 and 49 die from fentanyl than from guns, car accidents, or any other cause period. So today, with this new understanding, we’re taking accidents to significantly reduce the flow of precursor chemicals and pill presses from China to the Western Hemisphere. It’s going to save lives and I appreciate Pres. Xi’s commitment on this issue,” said Biden.

Artificial Intelligence

The president told reporters that he and Xi have agreed to resume direct communication, which had been cut off over the past year. The two countries will also assess the impact of artificial intelligence, as well as the risks and dangers the new technology may pose.

Both leaders appeared to want to mend fences, stating they did want to decouple their economies. Xi acknowledged that the US-China relationship is the most important bilateral relationship in the world. He noted that the relationship has never been “smooth sailing,” but added: “For two large countries like China and the United States, turning their back on each other is not an option. It is unrealistic for one side to remodel the other, and conflict and confrontation has unbearable consequences for both sides.”

Competition and Conflict

“I am still of the view that major-country competition is not the prevailing trend of current times and cannot solve the problems facing China and the United States or the world at large.  Planet Earth is big enough for the two countries to succeed, and one country’s success is an opportunity for the other,” said Xi.

Biden stated: “We have to ensure that competition does not veer into conflict.  And we also have to manage competition responsibly.”

But the eggshell on which both leaders ended their talks quickly developed a fissure. As Biden ended his press conference at Filoli Gardens, a reporter asked him if he would still refer to Xi as a dictator. Biden characterized Xi in that manner at a fundraiser in San Francisco last June.

“Well, look, he is. I mean he is a dictator in the sense that he is a guy who runs a Communist country that’s based on a form of government totally different than ours,” said Biden.

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