Biden, Xi must work to avoid conflict over Taiwan

In addition to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the international situation would become even more unstable if military tensions between the United States and China escalate over Taiwan. The leaders of the United States and China must work to avoid any conflict.

U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping had a heated exchange over the issue of Taiwan during their recent teleconference.

What sparked the argument was U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s possible visit to Taiwan in August.

The speaker of the House of Representatives is second in line to the presidency after the vice president, in case of the president’s death and other instances. U.S. military aircraft are used for the speaker’s overseas trips.

When it was reported that Pelosi was planning a visit to Taiwan, Beijing threatened Washington, saying: “If the United States decided to do things their own way, the Chinese military would not sit still and just watch. We will take strong and resolute measures.”

Xi told Biden that he would “completely reject interference by external forces” in Taiwan, and warned, “Those who play with fire will perish by it.” The remarks can be seen as Xi demanding that the plan for Pelosi to visit Taiwan be abandoned, implying that there would be countermeasures if she went ahead.

Biden stressed that Washington maintains its one-China policy, but added that the country strongly opposes unilateral changes to the status quo that might undermine peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.

It was China itself that made the United States increase its involvement in Taiwan. The Xi administration has not ruled out the possibility of unifying Taiwan by force, and Chinese military aircraft have repeatedly entered Taiwan’s air defense identification zone.

It is only natural for the United States to be cautious about the possibility that Taiwan could face a change to the status quo by force, as seen in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. However, it is China that is deepening the crisis by “playing with fire.” The country must refrain from provocative actions.

For its part, the United States should stay vigilant about measures that could escalate the situation. It is important to show its support for Taiwan without taking military risks. Giving China material that can be used to promote its anti-U.S. policies is not a good idea.

Biden and Xi have not met in person since the U.S. president took office in January 2021, partly because of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Both countries are in a stage of prioritizing domestic affairs, as midterm elections for U.S. Congress will take place in November, and China will have the National Congress of the Communist Party in the autumn. There are concerns that Washington and Beijing might misread each other’s attitude after failing to communicate properly and building up mutual distrust.

Also, as the world’s two biggest economies, the United States and China bear heavy responsibilities. Biden and Xi need to hold an in-person meeting as soon as possible and build a relationship of trust, at the very least.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 30, 2022)