China’s Xi expected to prioritize Taiwan issue in Biden discussion

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Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to use his first virtual meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden to warn the United States to “step back” on the Taiwan issue, according to Chinese state media editorials printed on Monday.

Xi and Biden are scheduled to meet virtually on Tuesday morning Beijing time – Monday evening in Washington – as friction between the countries persist across a range of issues including trade, technology, Xinjiang and especially Taiwan, a self-ruled island claimed by China.

An editorial in the English language China Daily on Monday said that it was likely that Xi would impress upon Biden that Beijing is resolved to “realise national reunification in the foreseeable future no matter the cost”.

State media outlets such as China Daily are briefed by authorities on important issues such as China-U.S. relations and have been accurate in reflecting the priorities of Chinese leaders.

“The Taiwan question is the ultimate red line of China”, wrote a Monday editorial by Global Times, a tabloid published by the ruling Communist Party’s People’s Daily.

“In order to reduce the risk of a strategic collision between China and the U.S., the latter must take a step back from the Taiwan question and show its restraint,” it wrote.

In a call with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Saturday, senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi warned Washington against sending the wrong signals to Taiwan pro-independence forces.

Some experts said China’s emphasis on Taiwan amidst other friction points reflects its reluctance to be drawn into armed conflict with the United States unnecessarily, despite its recent words and actions, including sending an unprecedented number of planes into Taiwan’s air defence zone.

“Chinese leaders are aware that China has not completed its modernisation and still faces many challenges in its domestic economy,” said Li Mingjiang, associate professor at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.

“A war could severely disrupt this modernisation and set back its rise,” he told Reuters.

China also does not have full confidence that it can secure a clear military victory at this stage, Li said.

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