*Biden says he found that China has no plans to invade Taiwan
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will make his first trip to China, the White House announced on Monday following a face-to-face meeting between the presidents of China and the United States that covered the gamut of issues, like US policy towards Taiwan, that have frayed the bilateral relationship.
The US said that the 3½-hour meeting between Xi Jinping and Joe Biden on the Indonesian island of Bali was candid and included a wide range of thorny topics; China’s statement on the meeting said the two sides agreed to step up dialogue on matters such as climate change, macroeconomic policies, trade and food security.
Regular talks had been largely frozen since US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan in August, a move that prompted Beijing to suspend dialogues as well as initiate a round of unprecedented military drills by the People’s Liberation Army.
Xi told Biden that the present state of China-US relations was not in either country’s interest, and both sides stressed the importance of maintaining communication.
Reiterating that Washington’s position on Taiwan has not changed, Biden told reporters after the meeting: “I do not think there’s any imminent attempt on the part of China to invade Taiwan.
“I made it clear that we want to see across trade issues peacefully resolved so it never has to come to that … I’m convinced that [Xi] understood exactly what I was saying; I understood what he was saying,” Biden said.
“We agreed that we would set up a set of circumstances, where on issues that we had to further resolve details, we agreed that we would have the appropriate cabinet members and others sit and meet with one another to discuss the details of every issue that we that was raised, and we raised a lot of issues,” he added.
Biden confirmed that he was sending Blinken to Beijing “to follow up on our discussions and continue keeping the lines of communication open between our two countries”. The White House did not specify when the top envoy would make the trip.
Taiwan was a major agenda item in the talks. Biden said that the US opposed any unilateral changes “by either side” to the status quo of the Taiwan Strait, and objected to Beijing’s “increasingly aggressive actions” towards the self-ruled island.
Xi said that Taiwan was the first red line that must not be crossed in China-US relations, according to state broadcaster CCTV.
“We hope to see and always strive to maintain peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, but ‘Taiwan independence’ is incompatible with peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait,” Xi was quoted as saying.
The meeting was their first since China’s 20th Communist Party congress and the midterm elections in the US, which gave each leader a boost as they sat down a day before the official start of the G20 summit.
In his opening remarks, Xi said that the current state of China-US relations was not in the fundamental interests of the two countries and their people, and not what the international community expected.
“A statesman should think about and know where to lead his country. He should also think about and know how to get along with other countries and the wider world,” Xi said.
“The world expects China and the US [to] properly handle the relationship, and our meeting has attracted the world’s attention. So we need to work with all countries, to bring more hope to world peace, greater confidence in world stability, and stronger impetus to common development.”
In his news briefing, Biden said that National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan as well as Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin would “be engaging with their counterparts from China”.
“We’re not going to be able to work everything out … but I do not believe there’s a need for concern of … a new cold war,” he added.
Sitting across from Xi at facing tables, Biden said that Beijing and Washington “share responsibility” to show the world they could “manage our differences, prevent competition from becoming conflict”.
Biden said the US and China must work together to address transnational challenges, like climate change, global macroeconomic stability including debt relief, health security, and global food security, the White House statement said.
But Biden also said the US would continue to compete vigorously with China by aligning efforts with its allies. He also raised human rights concerns in Xinjiang, Tibet, and Hong Kong, and vowed to resolve the cases of American citizens who were wrongfully detained or subject to exit bans in China.
Biden also raised the Ukraine war and North Korea’s missile tests during the meeting.
“President Biden and President Xi reiterated their agreement that a nuclear war should never be fought and can never be won and underscored their opposition to the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine,” the White House said.
Xi said that as two major countries with different histories and development paths, China and US were bound to have differences and competition.
But he added that in a such competition each side should learn from the other and make progress together.
“It should not be like you win and I lose, and I survive and you die,” he said.
“Both sides should view each other’s domestic and foreign policies and strategic intentions in a correct way, and establish the tone of exchanges of dialogue rather than confrontation.
“China never seeks to change the existing international order, does not interfere in the internal affairs of the United States, and has no intention of challenging or replacing the United States.”
He said that China opposed the “politicization” of trade issues, trade and tech wars, and the use of trade barriers.
Both leaders were strengthened by the latest political developments at home as they sat down for their first in-person encounter since Biden became US president in January 2021.
Xi, who arrived in Bali on Monday, is on his first overseas trip since last month’s party congress, where he secured an unprecedented third term, a move seen by geopolitical experts as an overwhelming consolidation of power.
Meanwhile, Biden’s Democratic Party has retained control of the Senate and is performing better than expected in the midterm elections, with some vote counts continuing.
Both sides had played down expectations that the meeting could reset the fraught relations between the world’s two biggest economies.
Ahead of the meeting, the Biden administration repeatedly said there would be no joint statement. Biden also said he was “not willing to make any fundamental concessions”.
China’s foreign ministry said that Beijing’s aims going into the encounter were to “advocate a correct way of coexistence between China and the United States, while firmly defending our own sovereignty, security and development interests”.
The two leaders met after three months of heightened tensions following Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan and China’s large-scale PLA drills around the self-ruled island that followed.
Beijing also suspended several defence dialogues and climate change cooperation with the US. Another source of recent contention has been new US export controls on hi-tech chips.
A series of high-level international meetings have been taking place in Asia since Thursday. Biden’s trip to the region began on Saturday, with a US-Asean meeting and the East Asia Summit – both held in Cambodia, with the aim of boosting Washington’s Asian relations to counter China’s growing influence.
After the G20 ends, Xi will visit Thailand next for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit that starts on Thursday. XI is also expected to hold meetings with French President Emmanuel Macron and Argentine President Alberto Fernández.
Wang Yiwei, an international relations professor at Renmin University of China, said that Monday’s meeting had been an in-depth one.
“The leaders of both sides have the right and freedom to conduct negotiations, make compromises or more communications, which is expected by the world,” Wang said.
Wang said the US sought to set the agenda for China-US relations, but it needed China to put pressure on Russia and North Korea.
“It means that after the midterm elections, Biden needs to make a greater effort to achieve something diplomatically, so he needs to seek cooperation with China on global affairs, including on climate change,” he said.
Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations at Renmin University, said both nations were trying to clarify their red lines and see where there was room to accommodate each other.
But Shi said it would be difficult for the two nations to make a breakthrough, citing the example of Taiwan as a major sticking point.
“There’s no possibility of any remarkable change, whatever Biden pushes for in Bali. There could be a decision to somewhat restore the bilateral military-to-military exchanges, for both countries make conflict prevention a priority,” he said.