by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
President Joe Biden’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday will be the most important of his life. Biden must ensure that Xi does not come away from their interchange with a mistaken understanding or detrimental opinion of his opposite number. This will be Biden’s first meeting with Xi since he became president. Biden has aged since Xi last met with him during the latter’s 2015 state visit to the United States. It is key, then, that Biden shows Xi he is in confident command of the U.S. government and military. The importance of this understanding can be informed by one word.
A growing number of U.S. military analysts now believe that Xi may order an attack on Taiwan in the 2023-2027 window. Yet, since becoming president, Biden has pledged four separate times that the U.S. military will intervene in Taiwan’s defense in the event of such an attack. Considering that Xi views the Communist Party’s absorption of Taiwan as the ultimate fulfillment of his destiny, the risks of a U.S.-China war are now significant. Biden must thus ensure that Xi is left with no sense that he is weak or unsure. If he fails to appear resolute, Biden risks inviting Xi to act against Taiwan before a possibly more hawkish U.S. president and Congress enter power.
Biden must thus show himself as composed and confident. Xi and his minions will be watching Biden assiduously for any sign of weakness or mental vulnerability. There can be no slip-ups. Beyond this basic requirement, however, Biden must broadcast a message of strength.
The president must then clarify to China’s all-powerful leader that the U.S. will not accept a unilateral effort to change the status quo in the Taiwan Strait. He must state that all options are on the table and that the U.S. has a historical and ideological commitment to ensuring that Taiwan remains free.