South Asia and Beyond

“Those Who Play With Fire…”: Xi, Biden Talk Taiwan

 “Those Who Play With Fire…”: Xi, Biden Talk Taiwan

In a call that lasted over two hours, U.S. President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping discussed Taiwan among other things. There was a stark difference in the versions of the releases that both countries put out. The Chinese foreign ministry made it clear at the outset that it was Biden who had sought the conversation. Xi “highlighted that the historical ins and outs of the Taiwan question are crystal clear, and so are the fact and status quo that both sides of the Taiwan Strait belong to one and the same China”. Biden was told that China firmly opposes separatist moves toward “Taiwan independence” and interference by external forces. Then came the threat: “Those who play with fire will perish by it. It is hoped that the US will be clear-eyed about this”. The U.S. version about the discussion was less specific. “President Biden underscored that the United States policy has not changed and that the United States strongly opposes unilateral efforts to change the status quo or undermine peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.” At a press briefing, a senior administration official, when asked if the U.S. perceived the fire and perish remark as a direct threat, downplayed the issue. “I will note that President Xi used similar language in the conversation that the two leaders had back in November. But, you know, I’m not going to get into parsing the various metaphors that the PRC regularly tends to use on these issues.”

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