Meeting of Joe Biden and Xi Jinping: dancing around red lines

Unsurprisingly, Washington and Beijing are still far apart on the Taiwan issue. But it’s good that they talk to each other at all.

Biden approaches Xi Jinping with his hand outstretched, behind them are Chinese and American flags

Joe Biden is about to shake hands with Xi Jinping Photo: Alex Brandon/dpa

From the US government’s perspective, the People’s Republic of China is “the only competitor that not only has the intention to transform the international order, but also has the economic, diplomatic, military and technological power to do so”. That’s what they say in the October US Security Strategy. She sees China as the United States’ greatest geopolitical challenge and accuses the People’s Republic of wanting to become the world’s leading power. Conversely, Beijing’s strategists see the US as a descending power whose goal is to block China’s rise.

Regardless of how accurate these analyzes are considered, it has recently become increasingly obvious that both sides are aligning their strategies and policies accordingly. So are they headed for an inevitable conflict? Yes, is the first answer after both presidents spoke to each other for the first time in Bali.

In the run-up, the expectation management had piled the chances of success as low as possible, but at least on the US side, it had hoped that successful conflict management was possible. As might be expected, the two presidents have not come close in what Biden calls “open” exchanges on the Taiwan issue. According to the White House, Biden denounced an “increasingly aggressive approach by Beijing against Taiwan”. Conversely, according to Chinese state media, Xi warned Biden not to cross any “red lines” on the Taiwan issue.

The US President had said before the meeting that it should serve to exchange information about the respective “red lines”. Expecting movement right away, especially since for Beijing the Taiwan question is always about the nitty gritty, i.e. domestic politics, is certainly completely presumptuous. However, there was movement in dealing with the Russian war in Ukraine. Here, according to Biden, Xi has condemned any nuclear threats.

That didn’t sound so clear in the Chinese media. But it must be said: Further dialogues are as important as necessary. This is the only way to reduce tension.

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