New Delhi: US President Joe Biden and China’s Xi Jinping traded strong warnings on the future of Taiwan at a virtual summit meant to establish “guardrails” against the conflict between their rival superpowers.
The video-link summit, which took place late Monday in Washington and early Tuesday in Beijing, lasted a “longer than expected” three and a half hours, a senior US official told reporters. “The conversation was respectful and straightforward.”
While the goal was to settle an increasingly volatile relationship between the giant economic and geopolitical competitors, tension over Taiwan — a self-governing democracy claimed by China — loomed largely.
Chinese state media reported after the summit that Xi cautioned Biden that encouraging Taiwanese independence would be “playing with fire.”
“Some people in the US intend to ‘use Taiwan to control China.’ This trend is very dangerous and is like playing with fire, and those who play with fire will get burned,” he was quoted as saying by Xinhua news agency.
The White House readout after the summit was considerably more measured, but between the lines, Biden’s pushback against Beijing’s increasingly aggressive posture toward Taiwan was clear.
“On Taiwan, President Biden underscored that the United States… strongly opposes unilateral efforts to change the status quo or undermine peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait,” the White House statement said.
The statement reiterated longstanding US policy that does not recognize Taiwan’s independence but supports the defense of the island.
According to the US official, who asked not to be identified, there was “extended discussion of Taiwan” during the summit.
Biden also raised “concerns” over wider issues of human rights abuses and mass repression against the Uyghurs in the northwest region of Xinjiang.