Xi-Biden Summit: Has the Ice Really Been Broken?

The three hour meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping Nov. 14 in Bali, the first ever, may have somewhat eased the tensions that have developed over the last few months. Both sides report that the discussion was quite cordial and extensive – although the readouts from the respective presidencies are quite different.

The Chinese side notes that Xi stressed the need for the two countries to work together for the benefit of the world. He insisted that China will continue to maintain an independent foreign policy of peace and decide its own position and attitude based on the merits of the particular matter, and advocates peaceful settlement of disputes. Reiterating his commitment to a “community with a shared future for mankind”, he proposed that U.S.-China relations should be viewed from above and should not be a zero-sum game where one wins and one loses. The vast Earth can fully accommodate the development and common prosperity of China and the United States. He reiterated that China does not want to replace the United States and never seeks to change the existing international order.

However, he made it perfectly clear that while Beijing wants to maintain peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, “Taiwan independence” is absolutely unacceptable. He called the Taiwan issue “the first red line that must not be crossed in China-U.S. relations”.

President Biden confirmed, apparently, that Washington does not support “Taiwan independence” or support the notion of “two Chinas” or “one China, one Taiwan” and it does not seek to decouple from China. He also said that the United States respects China’s system and does not seek to change it.

Contrary to the White House readout, the Chinese side did not mention the fact that Biden also broached the issues of Xinjiang and Tibet. This readout added that he raised Russia’s “irresponsible threats of nuclear use”, although Beijing is well aware that the nuclear threats have been coming from the United States, and have been directed against both Russia and China.

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