“A Joe Biden/Xi Jinping meeting is unlikely to stop the slide between the US and China”: Foreign Policy.
Presidents Joe Biden (USA) and Xi Jinping (China), negotiate a meeting to try to order the bilateral agenda . Will it be in November in Indonesia? However, pessimism dominates the horizon, in advance.
James Crabtree , executive director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies-Asia , wrote in Foreign Policy :
Sino-US bilateral ties are the worst in decades after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan and China’s subsequent military reaction. It now seems likely that Biden and Xi will meet in person at the G-20 summit in Indonesia in November. If they do indeed sit down together in just 3 months, their respective teams will already be thinking of ways to repair the damage. However, for that to happen, both sides need a clear analysis of why the situation in Taiwan is so unstable, and they must recognize that it is likely to get worse without intervention from above.
Since the beginning of his presidency, Biden has spoken 4 times (either by phone or by video) with Xi Jinping. And the result was much better than the communications between Biden and Vladimir Putin.
Biden argues for the need to establish ” guardrails ” (such as in bowling ) for a new period of competition between superpowers.
Xi has long-term goals to improve the existing regional order in Asia, warning of China’s red lines on Taiwan. Biden did not want Pelosi to make the trip. But when it became clear that he was going to go anyway, Washington DC did not back down in the face of pressure from Beijing. In doing so, the US reinstated its policy of allowing a US House Speaker to visit the island, as then House Speaker Newt Gingrich had done in 1997. More broadly, the events of the last few weeks will have helped the US impress upon its regional partners, such as Australia, Japan and India, the need to seriously plan for a possible Taiwan contingency. Can you put a positive spin on the meeting? James Crabtree:
The first reason to be skeptical is the lessons each side has drawn from the recent crisis. In short, both Beijing and Washington DC are likely to feel that they have come out of Pelosi’s visit reasonably well. This creates little incentive to commit or prevent future recurrence.
Beijing aims to retake Taiwan without going to war, just as it took back Hong Kong and Macau.
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However, he fears a drift towards formal independence from Taiwan, prompted by what he considers “reckless interference” by the US. In that case, a war would occur that he would prefer to avoid, at least for now. That is why Beijing displays its extreme discontent with moves such as Pelosi’s visit. “However, in recent weeks, Beijing has achieved other important goals, including firing ballistic missiles directly at the island, not just its waters, for the first time. China’s exercises also provided a rare opportunity to practice joint operations between the different branches of the People’s Liberation Army, in effect, a test of a future blockade. The result is a likely permanent change in the military status quo across the Taiwan Strait in favor of Beijing.” China managed to do all of this while keeping much of the region on the sidelines. “Privately, however, much of Southeast Asia at least sees Washington, not Beijing, as the main culprit in the crisis, and sees Pelosi’s visit as an unnecessary provocation.” Beijing’s shock-and-awe military response has created a new normal in East Asia. China has carried out a decades-long military buildup to create a military force capable of retaking the island by force if necessary.
China pressures Taiwan with ‘grey area’ military tactics and economic coercion. The white paper released by Beijing – “The Taiwan Question and China’s Reunification in the New Era” – removed previous assurances offered to Taiwan about its future position in a united China, such as not stationing Chinese troops on the island.
Taiwanese domestic politics is moving in the direction of making the status quo less sustainable. Opinion polls suggest that Taiwan’s national elections on 11/26, just after the possible Biden-Xi meeting, will give Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen’s Democratic Progressive Party a victory (another loss for the opposition Kuomintang party, which favors closer ties with Beijing).
The Taiwanese public seems increasingly willing to support independence: a poll taken after China’s recent military exercises shows that 50% of the population is in favor. Meanwhile, Biden is at pains to emphasize that he is not changing Washington DC’s “One China” policy. The Biden team is likely to be sincere on this point. However, it is quite clear that the foundations on which the status quo rests are changing. To complicate matters, there are likely to be more high-profile American visitors to Taipei. The US could also pass a new Taiwan Policy Act, a bipartisan bill that would elevate Taiwan to the status of “major non-NATO ally” and increase arms sales to the island. Then, in the run-up to the 2024 US presidential election, several Republican candidates are likely to take a hard-line position on Taiwan. Taken together, all of these factors make it difficult for either Biden or Xi to commit to turning the tide.
None of the leaders can afford to appear weak.
The G-20 meeting in mid-November comes on the heels of what is likely to be a mid-term loss for Biden, who will look for ways to rebuild domestic support. For his part, Xi is unlikely to back down from the kind of harsh language used by his team in recent months. “The wheels of history turn and no one can stop China’s path to reunification, ” Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe said at the recent Shangri-La Dialogue summit in Singapore in June. “If you want confrontation, we will fight to the end.”
“More realistically, the question is whether the 2 leaders have the political will and authority to give instructions to more hard-line voices on their respective sides to mitigate tensions, at least temporarily. Otherwise, the slide towards a more significant conflict, of which the crisis over Pelosi’s visit is only a foretaste, looks set to continue.”