The virtual meeting of Presidents Joe Biden and Xi Jinping takes place against a backdrop of mounting tensions – partly over Taiwan, a self-governed democracy claimed by Beijing, but also over trade, human rights and other issues.
In a phone call Friday with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to discuss preparations for the summit, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed concern about Beijing’s “military, diplomatic and economic pressure” on Taiwan.
Wang warned of the dangers of US actions that could support “Taiwan independence.”
Washington switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979, but a law passed that year requires the United States to supply weapons to Taiwan for self-defense.
The US administration keeps it from recognizing Taiwan, but it enjoys broad, bipartisan support in Congress, with a group of lawmakers visiting the island this month — much to Beijing’s anger.
“Any complicity with and support for Taiwan’s independence forces undermines peace in the Taiwan Strait and would ultimately be just a boomerang,” Wang told Blinken, according to a readout of China’s call released on Saturday.
China has ramped up military activity near Taiwan in recent years, with a record number of planes entering the island’s air defense zone in early October.
Washington has repeatedly expressed its support for Taiwan in the face of what it has described as Chinese aggression.
– ‘Managing competition responsibly’ – Biden has largely kept Beijing from his predecessor Donald Trump, with both governments seeing an emerging China as the greatest challenge of the 21st century.
And while the world’s two biggest greenhouse gas emitters last week unveiled a surprising agreement to work together on climate change, Washington and Beijing have said they won’t budge on flashpoint issues.
US officials have seen Monday’s summit as an opportunity to “compete responsibly” as they try to work together in areas where the two align.
Xi last week warned of the return of Cold War tensions in the Asia-Pacific region.
Biden and the Chinese leader have spoken by phone twice since the veteran Democrat moved into the White House.
The pair also met extensively when Biden was Barack Obama’s vice president and Xi was Hu Jintao’s vice president.
The US president had hoped to meet Xi at a recent G20 summit in Rome, but the Chinese leader has not traveled since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic and instead agreed to hold virtual talks by the end of the year.