Landmark G-20 bilateral Xi – Biden meet marks shift in China’s tone


On Monday, November 21, the G 20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, saw Chines premier Xi Jinping speak to Joe Biden for more than three hours on the sidelines. The inference of China’s meeting indicates their shifting approach towards the US. 

The two leaders’ discussion indicated a more positive tone, especially after it had reached a low recently. In August, tense moments between China and Taiwan saw Nancy Pelosi, US House speaker, make a controversial visit to Taiwan.

President Biden and President Xi greeted with a handshake. They agreed to resume talks on economic stability, health and food security, and climate change. The White House released a statement saying Anthony Blinken, Secretary of state, will make a follow-up visit to China. 

Still, many areas of disagreement remain, including issues of Taiwan, Human rights, and Technology. The tension seems to have eased after China offered incentives for the US to work together, and the recent Chinese communications showed fewer warnings.

Key shifts  

The language in China’s communication indicated a shift, with the tone seemingly warmer. Beijing said that the meeting between the two countries was in-depth, candid, and constructive. The term “constructive” is usually used by China when there is a positive development. The last telephonic meeting between Biden and Xi in July, days before Pelosi visited Taiwan, saw the statement missing the positive description by China afterward. 

Monday’s meeting was followed by a lengthy 2800-character statement by China, in sharp contrast to just 911 characters issued in July.

Taiwan remains the issue.

Xi’s shift from the term ‘One China Principle” to “One China Policy” and asking Biden to abide by this shows tensions have been pulled back compared to the statement in July. The minor tweak in language interprets that Taiwan’s status is viewed differently now. 

Xi’s language was more aggressive in Taiwan back in July. He had warned Biden that whoever plays with fire will perish and spoke about the firm resolve of 1.5 billion Chinese people to defend their territorial integrity. 

Monday’s statement from both sides saw the absence of heated tones. Still, the difference in Taiwan between the two superpowers remains unresolved.  

Succeeding together 

The conciliatory language used by China states that the two countries are not strategic competitors. In July, xi accused the US of treating China as the main rival who posed long-term threats. 

 Economic Cooperation

Xi had warned the US in July against their attempt to cut off China from supply chains saying that it would not help to boost the US economy. On Monday, Xi focused on the mutual interest that benefits both countries. He added that tackling regional and global issues, including climate change, was in both countries’ interest. 

What remained unsaid 

The Chinese statement mentioned Russia’s war in Ukraine; it was silent on the two leaders’ agreement that nuclear war should not be fought or the two countries’ opposition to using nuclear weapons. It repeated President XI’s standard comments on how China always wanted to facilitate dialogues for peace. There was no mention of North Korea in China’s statement.


Source: Bloomberg

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