PAccording to reports, Joe Biden, a resident of New Jersey will talk with Chinese leader Xi Jinping this Thursday amid renewed tensions regarding Taiwan.
The first conversation between the two presidents since March will take place at a particularly difficult juncture for US-China ties: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s staff and security officials aren’t ruling out plans for her to visit Taiwan in early August.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Monday that Beijing was getting “seriously prepared” for the possibility that Pelosi could visit the the self-governing island, which China considers part of its territory.
US Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns said in June that relations with China have deteriorated to probably “the lowest moment” since diplomatic relations resumed in 1972. Biden is currently recovering from the coronavirus in the White House and is also considering lifting some Chinese import tariffs to curb rampant inflation.
US officials have stressed that the Xi call would be a continuation of the administration’s efforts to maintain open lines of communication to ensure that the relationship doesn’t veer into unintended conflict.
No final decision has been made about a stop in Taiwan during Pelosi’s trip to Asia next month, according to a person familiar with the details. Pelosi will be the first sitting Speaker to visit Taiwan since Newt Geingrich.
Beijing immediately vowed to take “resolute and strong” measures in response and warned of a “grave impact” on bilateral relations should Pelosi go ahead with the trip. The Financial Times also reported that China privately warned the Biden Administration of a possible military reaction.
“All the ensuing consequences shall be borne by the US side,” Zhao said.
Wang Yang, a member of the Politburo Standing Committee, said at a meeting on Tuesday that “no individual and no force should underestimate the resolve, the will and the ability of the Chinese people to defend their national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
He also “stressed the importance of upholding the one-China principle,” according to the official Xinhua News Agency.
In the US, lawmakers in both parties encouraged Pelosi to make the trip, saying not doing so following China’s protestations would amount to acquiescing to Beijing.
“If we can allow the Chinese to dictate who can visit Taiwan and who cannot, then we have already ceded Taiwan to the Chinese,” said Senate Foreign Relations Chair Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, who made his own trip to Taiwan in April.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Tuesday evening that Pelosi “shouldn’t back down now,” but that she “should make it a bipartisan trip.”
Biden told reporters last week that the US military didn’t think Pelosi’s trip was a good idea, prompting consternation in Taiwan. It’s not clear if Pelosi, at the request of intelligence and defense officials, will decide against the trip.
In May, the president provocated China with his promise to protect Taiwan militarily. After saying that US policy on Taiwan “had not changed at all” during a news conference in Tokyo, he then answered “yes” when asked if the US would act “militarily” to defend the island in the event of a Chinese attack.
White House officials reversed the remarks later, claiming that President Obama was just promising US help to Taiwan in times of war.
Trader calmed down before the call. The implied volatility for the Taiwan dollar fell to 4.98 on Tuesday, its lowest point since Feb. 25, and the highest level in one month. “I am not so concerned about this event risk as I don’t think both US and China want to stage up conflict at this point in time,” said Stephen Chiu, chief Asia FX and rates strategist at Bloomberg Intelligence.
John Kirby, spokesperson for the National Security Council, told reporters on Tuesday that while the Biden-Xi session will include a strong agenda and not have tariffs as a topic.
“I wouldn’t think it would be a major topic of discussion with President Xi unless or until he makes a decision,” Kirby said of the duties. Kirby said the pair will discuss Taiwan tensions and how to deal with the fierce competition between these two major economies.
China should not aid Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine, the White House warned. So far, US officials said they haven’t seen anything that would amount to material support.
The United States considers eliminating tariffs
Biden’s aides say he’s close to a decision on whether to scrap some of the tariffs President Donald Trump imposed on roughly $350 billion in Chinese imports.
Some advisers have pushed for the move to help ease inflation that’s running at a four-decade high. Other groups, such as labor unions argue that it will have minimal impact on prices and would give up any leverage in negotiations with Beijing.
Biden has pledged repeatedly to be the most prounion president of the United States. Democrats count on labor support for the November midterm elections. This will help determine whether they retain control over Congress.
“The president is still thinking about it,” Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday. “You know, this is a big decision.”
Biden was sent a letter by Xi last Wednesday wishing him speedy healing from Covid-19. The Chinese Communist Party is set to hold its national gathering this fall that’s expected to hand Xi a precedent-defying third term.
—Assistance from Billy House
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