How China’s Language Shifted After Landmark Xi-Biden Meeting
After Xi Jinping spoke for more than three hours on Monday with Joe Biden on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit, China’s readout of the meeting indicates the country’s approach to US ties is shifting.
(Bloomberg) -- After Xi Jinping spoke for more than three hours on Monday with Joe Biden on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit, China’s readout of the meeting indicates the country’s approach to US ties is shifting.
The leaders set a more positive tone for relations, which reached a low point after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made a controversial visit to Taiwan in August. Presidents Xi and Biden greeted each other with a handshake and agreed to resume bilateral talks on climate change, economic stability and health and food security. The White House said in a statement afterward that Secretary of State Antony Blinken would travel to China to follow up.
Read More: Biden and Xi Take Biggest Step in Years to Prevent US-China Clash
Plenty of disagreements remain, over topics including Taiwan, technology and human rights. But tensions have eased, with China’s statement offering the US more incentives to work together and issuing fewer warnings than other recent communications. Here are five key shifts in China’s language.
A Warmer Tone...
Beijing described the in-person meeting as “candid, in-depth and constructive” — with the last term usually used by China to suggest a positive development. When Xi and Biden spoke by telephone in July, just days before Pelosi’s Taiwan trip, that description was missing from the statement Beijing issued afterward.
The July statement was also just 911 Chinese characters long, while the more than 2,800-character readout following Monday’s meeting was more explanatory.
… But Taiwan Remains the No. 1 Red Line
In another sign that tensions have been dialed back, Xi told Biden that the US must abide by the “One China policy” rather than the “One China principle,” as he did in July. That small tweak in language is an important recognition that the two sides interpret Taiwan’s status differently — “policy” has long been the US phrasing, while “principle” is the usual Chinese term.
Read More: Why Taiwan’s Status Risks Igniting a US-China Clash
Back in July, Xi’s language around Taiwan was aggressive. The Chinese leader warned Biden that “whoever plays with fire will perish by it” and spoke of the “firm will” of China’s 1.4 billion people to defend the country’s territorial integrity.
That heated language was notably absent from Monday’s statement, although it is clear that the two nation’s differences over Taiwan are far from resolved: The statement described the island’s fate as “the first red line that must not be crossed in China-U.S. relations.”
Succeeding in Parallel
The statement used conciliatory language to state that US-China relations need not be a “strategic competition.”
In July, Xi bluntly accused the US of “misperceiving” China as a primary rival that posed a long-term challenge. On Monday, the emphasis fell on the benefits a rising China could bring to the US.
“The world is big enough for the two countries to develop themselves and prosper together,” Xi said, adding that “under the current circumstances, China and the United States share more, not less, common interests.”
In a similar vein, Xi in July warned the US against cutting China out of supply chains. “Attempts at decoupling or severing supply chains in defiance of underlying laws would not help boost the U.S. economy,” he said.
But on Monday, Xi focus on mutual benefits, saying: “The two economies are deeply integrated, and both face new tasks in development. It is in our mutual interest to benefit from each other’s development.”
That said, he also told Biden that “suppression and containment will only strengthen the will and boost the morale of the Chinese people.”
Xi added that tackling climate change and other regional and global issues are both sides’ interest.
What Wasn’t Said
While the Chinese readout mentioned Russia's war in Ukraine, it didn’t refer to the two leaders’ agreement that “a nuclear war should never be fought and can never be won,” or their opposition to the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons there. Instead, it repeated Xi’s usual comments that China always stands on the side of peace and is willing to facilitate dialogues. There was no mention of North Korea.
Xinjiang or Hong Kong were also absent from the statement, although the White House noted Biden had raised concerns about human rights in both locations.
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