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Saturday, January 22, 2022

Biden urges Xi not to allow competition to “turn into conflict”

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Joe Biden told Xi Jinping that their countries must not allow competition to “turn into conflict” at the start of a virtual match taking place amid mounting tensions over Taiwan.

“We need to establish a common sense guardrail, be clear and honest where we disagree, and work together where our interests intersect,” the US president told his Chinese counterpart. “None of this is a favor for any of our countries. . . it’s just responsible world leadership. “

Biden wanted to hold a summit in person, but Xi hasn’t left China for nearly two years due to the coronavirus pandemic. US-China relations have been mired in their worst state since the two countries established diplomatic relations in 1979.

“This is the first time we have met virtually. While it’s not as good as a face-to-face meeting, I’m very happy to see my old friend, ”Xi told Biden in his opening remarks, which were made in front of the media.

Xi said countries should “respect each other, coexist in peace and pursue win-win cooperation” in a mantra that critics say means letting China pursue controversial policies such as repression of Uighurs and suppression of the pro movement. democracy in Hong Kong.

But the White House said Biden raised US concerns about Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Tibet, as well as human rights in general. “It was clear about the need to protect American workers and industries from [China’s] unfair commercial and economic practices, ”the White House added, and“ discussed the importance of a free and open Indo-Pacific ”.

According to Xinhua, the Chinese news agency, Xi told Biden that the two sides had to “handle differences and sensitive issues constructively to prevent Sino-US relations from derailing”, as they sought common ground on issues such as climate change and the pandemic. He also compared the two countries to two large ships that needed “stable rudders” to avoid a collision.

The United States is alarmed by China’s military expansion and the situation around Taiwan, with Beijing flying more and more warplanes into the island’s air defense identification zone.

China tested a hypersonic weapon with nuclear capability in July and the Pentagon recently said Beijing will quadruple its nuclear stockpiles to more than 1,000 warheads by 2030.

Xi pressured Biden to ensure he does not undermine the “one China” policy under which the United States has recognized Beijing as the only seat of government in China since 1979. The United States has implemented policy changes this year which it has made it easier for US officials to engage with Taiwanese officials.

Xi warned that Taiwanese independence supporters and anyone who supported them were “playing with fire” and would only “get burned,” according to Xinhua. If anyone crossed China’s “red lines” on Taiwan, he added, Beijing would have to “take decisive measures”.

Drew Thompson, a former Pentagon official now at the Lee Kwan Yew School of Public Policy, said both sides had “very low expectations” for the meeting. “The goal is to stabilize the relationship and manage competition, not necessarily solve big problems,” he said.

Biden recently said the US would do it defend Taiwan against any attack from China, in comments that contravene the longstanding policy of “strategic ambiguity” in which the United States is vague as to whether it can come to Taiwan’s aid. The White House immediately watered down Biden’s comments, but raised further concerns in Beijing about his position.

Chinese analysts said Xi cannot compromise on “core” issues such as Taiwan and its campaigns to assert control over Hong Kong and the northwestern region of Xinjiang.

“China has a very clear position on [these issues] and it will not be moved, “said Shi Yinhong, a foreign relations expert at Renmin University.

Additional reporting by Xinning Liu in Beijing

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