The fifth video chat between the POTUS Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping lasting two hours and 20 minutes was held on July 28 – as always at the behest of Joe Biden.
In a press briefing on June 28, the White House attributed multiple reasons for Biden’s conversation with Xi. The gist of the conversations were: Biden has continually emphasized open lines of communication to ensure that America-China manage differences and progress shared interest (particularly climate change and health security); both leaders appreciated the face-to-face meeting and agreed to follow up by their teams at a mutually agreeable time; Biden raised the issue of Americans wrongfully detained by China and longstanding concerns about human rights; Russia’s war in Ukraine and its global impacts was discussed, as was in-depth discussion on Taiwan, and; Biden reaffirmed American commitment to One China Policy, guided by the Taiwan Relations Act.
Questions and answers following the White House briefing centred mainly on Taiwan, Russia and American tariffs imposed on China. It was said during the above briefing that the Biden-Xi virtual meeting was proposed by the US National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan. This maybe the case but it cannot deflect from the propaganda about the forthcoming visit to Taiwan by Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the US House of Representatives, which hastened Biden’s call to Xi. Beijing had responded to the announcement of Pelosi visiting Taiwan with the spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry saying that China will respond with force.
Talking to reporters at the White House on July 20, Biden had said, “I think I’ll be talking to President Xi within the next 10 days”. When asked about Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, Biden said, “The military thinks it’s not a good idea right now, but I don’t know what the status of it is.” Pelosi later said she had not spoken to Biden about the trip.
China’s state media said the military should shoot down Pelosi’s plane if she comes to Taiwan with military escort. Colonel Tan Kefei, spokesperson for China’s Ministry of Defence, stated on July 26, “If Pelosi visits Taiwan; it would seriously violate the one-China principle, seriously harm China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and seriously damage the political foundation of China-US relations. If the US insists on taking its own course, the Chinese military will never sit idly by, and it will definitely take strong actions to thwart any external force’s interference.”
However, despite China-US tensions at an all time high, Nancy Pelosi did land in Taiwan – senior most US official in last 25 years to visit Taiwan. China cyberattacked Taiwan’s presidential website, Chinese SU-35 aircraft flew over Taiwan Straits, China banned import of hundreds of Taiwan products and has ordered fresh round of military exercises in the South China Sea. Nancy is triumphant that her visit confirms US commitment to Taiwan but US sticks have tanked fearing the prospects of war. One view is that China always backs off when someone stands up face to face. Another view s that China may use this excuse to invade Taiwan putting the US in a fix whether to take on China directly, which is unlikely. Incidentally, a Japanese parliamentary delegation which included two former Japanese ministers of defence visited Taiwan recently.
The statement issued by China’s Minister of Foreign Affairs covering the Jinping-Biden was certainly threatening; gist of important issues are flagged as under:
• Xi underscored that defining China-US relation as strategic competition and viewing China as the primary rival and the most serious long-time challenge is misreading China’s development.
• Xi emphasized that both China and the US need to coordinate macroeconomics policies to keep the global supply chain stable and protect global energy and food security. Attempts at decoupling or severing supply chains in defiance of underlying laws will not help the US economy.
• Both sides need to work for de-escalation of regional hotspots, reducing the risk of stagflation and recession.
• Xi said that both sides of the Taiwan Straits belong to the one and the same China. China will never allow Taiwan Independence and interference by external forces. China’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity is the firm will of 1.4 billion Chinese people, and public opinion cannot be defied. Those who play with fire will perish by it. It is hoped that the US will be clear-eyed about this.
• Biden reiterated America’s One China policy and said the US does not support Taiwan Independence.
The US initially did not announce Taiwan as part of Nancy Pelosi’s Asia trip. But eventually she did land in Taiwan, which is a slap on the face of Xi Jinping. The question now is will Xi Jinping sit quiet with the 20th Conference of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) approaching? Has the Biden Administration miscalculated merely to boost the ratings of Biden? Will this move be counterproductive to the US in the long run? Antony Blinken, Secretary of State, refused to shake hands with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at the recent Foreign Minister’s Meet of G20 countries in Bali, Indonesia. But it is Blinken now who is initiating talks with Lavrov for prisoner exchange. Will the identities of American prisoners embarrass America further?
China has now asked the US in particular, and the international maritime traffic to avoid the Taiwan Straits. America’s USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier group is reportedly prowling in the South China Sea but China’s PLA is merrily conducting live firing exercises near the Pingtan Islands of Fujian Province, as well as military exercises off its southern coast near Guangdong.
Nancy Pelosi tweeted on July 30: “28 years ago, we travelled to Tiananmen Square to honour the courage and sacrifice of the students, workers and ordinary citizens who stood for the dignity and human rights that all people deserve. To this day, we remain committed to sharing their story to the world.” But such tweets matter little to China beyond rhetoric, knowing that America’s only weapon against China is sanctions, which if used will harm the US more than the fallout from sanctioning Russia. What has the world done anyway about the Wuhan Virus and China kicking out the One Nation, Two Systems in Hong Kong with brutal suppression of democracy?
With the ratings of Joe Biden falling more, the American public is getting disenchanted with the Biden Administration, not that most of them want Donald Trump back either after he allegedly engineered the attack on Capitol Hill. American Twitter users have criticized the bill on the supply of arms to Taiwan in the US House of Representatives. Some other tweets are: “We are in a position to help both Ukraine and Taiwan, which could lead to a simultaneous clash with Russia and China”; “Arms deliveries are an act of aggression, the US is making a mistake as usual”, and, “Are we at war with China?! I’m even afraid to imagine what the consequences will be”.
Chinese officials have been telling visiting foreign delegations since the year 2000 that Taiwan will be integrated with mainland China by 2025. That should set the Biden administration thinking amid the fallout of its fuelling the Ukraine conflict – particularly energy crisis and inflation in the West, talks on the Iran Nuclear Deal deadlocked and North Korea’s nuclear challenge to the US, aside from political instability in the US and some European countries.