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Xi-Biden meeting lowered likelihood China will invade Taiwan

‘Important but modest progress,’ US expert says meeting was success in reestablishing communication

Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) and U.S. President Joe Biden meet outside San Francisco, 2023. (Reuters photo)

Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) and U.S. President Joe Biden meet outside San Francisco, 2023. (Reuters photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Joe Biden on Wednesday (Nov. 15) reduced the chances that China will invade Taiwan, according to one expert.

Meeting on the sidelines of the APEC Summit in San Francisco, Xi and Biden agreed to resume military-to-military communications and work together on tackling issues like AI and fentanyl. “The meeting was a success in the sense that the purpose was to reestablish communication. The two leaders had not spoken in a year,” Victor Cha, senior vice president for Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said in an interview on Meet the Press.

According to Cha, “It is still a very competitive relationship, but at least there is dialogue to ensure this competition does not escalate into a conflict. It is important but modest progress.” He also said that it lowered the chances that China would invade Taiwan.

During the meeting, Xi told Biden that Taiwan was the “biggest, most dangerous” issue in U.S.-China relations, a U.S. official told Reuters. China prefers to achieve so-called “reunification” with Taiwan in a peaceful manner, the official quoted Xi as saying, but Xi laid out the conditions that would lead to China's use of force.

Xi indicated that China has no current plan for a massive invasion of Taiwan, the official said. This is presumed to be in response to speculation by U.S. military officers that the People's Liberation Army (PLA) may be preparing to invade Taiwan by 2027, although no basis has been provided for these claims.

Biden assured Xi that Washington wants to maintain peace in the Taiwan Strait, but Xi replied that, at some point, “we need to move towards resolution more generally.” Xi told Biden to “stop arming Taiwan” and to “support China's peaceful reunification,” according to a Chinese foreign ministry statement. He also claimed that China's integration of Taiwan is “unstoppable.”

“The Chinese wanted a more forward-leaning statement from Biden about opposing Taiwan independence,” Cha said. “Biden did not give up any ground in terms of U.S. support for Taiwan, and also did not give any license to Xi to think that he could exert any influence… on Taiwan,” he added.

Responding to the Xi-Biden meeting, Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that it will not attempt to predict whether or when a Chinese invasion might occur. The ministry said Taiwan will remain focused on mustering international support and strengthening its defense capabilities.

When asked about benchmarks to assess the U.S.-China relationship in 2024, Cha said he will be watching the progress of deals made on military and fentanyl. “The Chinese didn’t agree to stop fentanyl precursors to the U.S. They just agreed to a working group… So how does that move forward? Same thing on AI,” he said.

“But also, are the Chinese going to do anything in regard to the war in Gaza, or the war in Ukraine, where they arguably have influence both on Iran and Hamas, as well as on the Russians?” Cha added.