Xi Jinping’s meeting with Joe Biden yielded no major breakthroughs. But China has already claimed victory

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US-China relations, which got here to a close to complete breakdown throughout the last yr of President Donald Trump’s time period, had descended into open hostility throughout more moderen high-level bilateral conferences — together with March’s now infamous Alaska Summit, throughout which diplomats from each side traded barbs.

And although Monday’s digital summit between the 2 leaders noticed no substantive coverage on key points corresponding to local weather, commerce, the pandemic, or arms management, it did set up a dialogue that may be constructed on, probably easing tensions — and permitting for a return to a extra constructive, steady relationship.

However whereas the temper music coming from each nations is undoubtedly constructive, a better examination suggests Beijing felt it had extra to cheer.

“Biden reiterates he would not help Taiwan independence!” proclaimed the primary headline to seem on Chinese language state media after the summit. A related hashtag quickly grew to become the highest trending matter on Weibo, China’s heavily-censored model of Twitter, attracting greater than 200 million views.

The Chinese language Communist Get together (CCP) views “reunification” with Taiwan — a self-ruling democracy it has by no means ruled — as a key unresolved situation on China’s path towards its “nice rejuvenation.”

{That a} US President would probably agree with China’s view on this situation is subsequently a giant propaganda win. However in accordance with a readout of the assembly from the White Home, that is not fairly what Biden stated — in reality the US readout did not point out independence in any respect.

“On Taiwan, President Biden underscored that america stays dedicated to the ‘one China’ coverage, guided by the Taiwan Relations Act, the three Joint Communiques, and the Six Assurances, and that america strongly opposes unilateral efforts to alter the established order or undermine peace and stability throughout the Taiwan Strait,” the White Home stated.

Biden later supplied additional clarification on the issue Tuesday evening. “I stated that they should determine — Taiwan, not us. We’re not encouraging independence,” Biden stated. Explaining his place earlier Tuesday, Biden stated “We made very clear we help the Taiwan Act, and that is it,” including that Taiwan “makes its personal choices.”
Biden says Taiwan's independence is up to Taiwan after discussing matter with Xi

In what is called the US “one China” coverage, Washington acknowledges Beijing’s place that Taiwan is a part of China, however has by no means endorsed the CCP’s declare of sovereignty over Taiwan. It maintains shut unofficial ties with Taipei, and is obligated to help the island with the means to defend itself underneath the Taiwan Relations Act.

An in depth 3,900-character readout launched by China’s Overseas Ministry once more cited Biden as saying the US doesn’t help Taiwan independence, however it didn’t point out Washington’s robust stance in opposition to “unilateral efforts to alter the established order.”

As a substitute, it confirmed Xi taking a direct swipe — and making a veiled risk — at Washington.

In keeping with the Chinese language readout, Xi blamed rising tensions throughout the Taiwan Strait on what he referred to as Taipei’s try and “depend on the US to hunt independence,” in addition to “the intention of some Individuals to make use of Taiwan to comprise China.”

“Such strikes are extraordinarily harmful, identical to enjoying with fireplace. Whoever performs with fireplace will get burnt,” Xi instructed Biden, in accordance with the Chinese language readout.

“We’ve got endurance and can try for the prospect of peaceable reunification with utmost sincerity and efforts. Nonetheless, if the ‘Taiwan independence’ separatist forces provoke, compel and even cross the purple line, we should take drastic measures,” Xi added.

Such robust rhetoric is more likely to resonate with China’s home viewers, lots of whom staunchly help unification with Taiwan.

Xi additional cemented his energy at a key Communist Get together assembly final week, paving the best way to safe a 3rd time period and past in workplace. And now, he’s portrayed domestically as having emerged triumphantly from the assembly with Biden, too.

“In fact, in China, they’ve to say victory. That is why they emphasised that the Biden administration has reiterated its opposition to Taiwan independence,” stated Jean-Pierre Cabestan, an skilled on Chinese language politics at Hong Kong Baptist College.

For Beijing, the optics of the assembly is not less than as vital as its content material.

Within the Chinese language capital, the digital summit was held in a gold-painted, red-carpeted corridor within the Nice Corridor of the Individuals. Xi and Biden’s faces appeared facet by facet on an enormous display screen livestreaming the assembly, whereas Chinese language leaders, together with Xi himself, sat meters away in a row on the opposite facet of the room — a markedly totally different setup from what US officers had within the Roosevelt Room of the White Home.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, fourth from right, waves as he greets US President Joe Biden via video link from Beijing on Tuesday in China.

In keeping with the Chinese language readout, Xi likened China and the US to 2 large ships at sea, every needing to be steered steadily to keep away from collision.

“In a way, it offers China a number of face, a number of standing — nice energy standing. Biden has accepted to speak to China on an equal footing, mentioning the important thing points each nations have to deal with collectively, from local weather change, North Korea to Afghanistan,” Cabestan stated.

And for Xi, constructing bridges with Biden and trying to carry bilateral relations on a extra regular observe helps his home political agenda too.

“President Xi after all, is shifting into a really political yr,” stated Paul Haenle, director of the Carnegie-Tsinghua Heart for World Coverage, citing Xi’s try to seek an unprecedented third term in energy on the twentieth Get together Congress subsequent fall.

“So this (might be) an vital yr and President Xi I believe, will largely be centered on eradicating these dangers and people uncertainties within the US-China relationship in order that he can actually concentrate on the home politics in making ready for the Get together Congress,” Haenle stated.

Clearly, it is in Xi’s best interests to minimize risks forward of the congress and set up a steady US-China relationship — placing up guardrails to stop unexpected incidents from spilling into battle.

Ryan Hass, a senior fellow on the Brookings Establishment, stated home components will probably play an outsized position for each leaders within the coming yr.

“Neither chief will wish to be seen as softening his method towards the opposite, however on the similar time, neither chief will see revenue in permitting the connection to escalate considerably past present ranges of pressure,” he stated.

“As such, the connection probably will navigate between a reasonably agency flooring and ceiling over the approaching yr.”

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