Nov 14, 2022, 10:06 AM
- President Biden of the US and Chairman Xi of China met for more than three hours on Monday morning.
- The two leaders opposed the use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine, as Russian President Vladimir Putin has threatened, according to the White House’s account.
- On Taiwan, the two leaders reiterated their existing positions and said they sought to avoid military conflict.
As Vladimir Putin’s threat of nuclear conflict continued to hang over the invasion of Ukraine, the American and Chinese leaders met for more than three hours Monday morning on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, and apparently did what they could to encourage some Russian restraint.
The discussion between Xi Jinping and Joe Biden was private, but much can be gleaned from readouts published by the White House, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Biden’s press conference following the meeting. Most notable was Xi’s “agreement” with Biden that “a nuclear war should never be fought and can never be won,” a view that “underscored” the two leaders’ “opposition to the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine,” according to the White House’s account of the meeting.
Xi reportedly took the same position on Russia’s nuclear threats during a meeting with the German chancellor earlier this month. But for him to again call out the nuclear blackmail of President Vladimir Putin — who has referenced the 1945 US nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and threatened to use Russia’s nukes in Ukraine — carries particular significance in a meeting with Biden.
The Chinese readout of the Xi-Biden meeting was more vague when it came to Russia and Ukraine. It noted that China was “highly concerned” and that “confrontations between major countries must be avoided.” It did not call on Russia to withdraw from its unprovoked invasion, instead calling for negotiations. Despite worries early on by Western countries that the so-called “no-limits friendship” between Xi and Putin meant that China would take Russia’s side in the Ukraine conflict, China has taken a more neutral line.
On Taiwan, the US and China publicly reiterated their pre-existing positions. China took a hard line against an independent Taiwan while the US criticized China for “coercive and increasingly aggressive actions.” In his press conference, Biden said that he and Xi were “candid and clear with one another” and that “there need not be a new Cold War.” US officials have recently claimed that China has accelerated its preparations to potentially seize Taiwan by force. In his remarks, Biden turned down the heat. “I do not think there’s any eminent attempt by the part of China to invade Taiwan,” he said.
The high-level meeting came on the same day as a US-Russia discussion to try to reduce the chances the Ukraine war could escalate. In Turkey, CIA Director William Burns met with his Russian counterpart and warned against Russia using nukes or other terror weapons in its arsenal against Ukraine.