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America is engaged in a monumental global struggle against China. While the White House is already downplaying expectations for the side meeting between President Joe Biden and China’s Xi Jinping, the fact is that this fight is at a pivotal point.
The Bali meeting between Biden and Xi on the sidelines of the G20 will be short. Expect Biden to do the most talking; Previous Zoom calls have lasted up to three hours, when Biden went into conference mode.
It’s a G20 meeting, so prepare for some gooey talk about energy transitions and global economic recovery. But don’t expect major trade concessions or diplomatic “deliverables,” the White House says. They know that Xi is not there to negotiate. China’s penetration of US universities, cyber theft of technology and takeover of the United Nations continues, so the incentive for China to talk is minimal at this time.
Xi Jinping wants to show up in Bali, Indonesia, and take a victory lap after consolidating his full political control over China last month. The G20 and its guests are its best customers, after all.
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However, the G20 (minus Russia) is also pretty much the heart of the international system. These are the countries that China wants to dominate, as Xi tries to push the US out of the global leadership role. Participants also include America’s best allies and friends.
In Indonesia, Biden’s big task is to remind G20 countries that despite Xi Jinping’s ruthless ambitions, the United States is still the world’s only superpower today. Specifically, Biden should take Xi to task for his support for Russia’s war in Ukraine, massive nuclear buildup and, of course, threats against Taiwan.
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For starters, Biden can and should rally Ukraine’s many supporters and call on Xi Jinping to back Russia’s war. He will never admit it, but seeing Ukraine’s success against Russia surprised Xi.
The Chinese army has impressive equipment but hardly any combat experience. Using American weapons and tactics, Ukraine pulverizes the great Russian army.
China picked a loser by backing Putin and Xi must have second thoughts about all those Russian weapons in China’s arsenal, and the bad tactics Chinese troops learned in joint exercises with Russia. Biden is enjoying a lot of the shine reflected from Ukraine’s success.
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And he will need it for the second task: to deliver a message on nuclear deterrence. Xi has China on track to build hundreds of new nuclear weapons.
New missile fields, nuclear weapons in orbit, more multi-warhead mobile road missiles: China is racing to overtake the US arsenal.
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China refuses to discuss arms control and seems to view the nuclear triad as a tool for coercion, not stability.
In the coming decade, the United States will struggle–rush to buy enough new B-21 bombers, nuclear missiles and Columbia-class submarines to deter China. Biden must drop the Obama-era anti-nuclear verbiage and tell Xi that the United States will deter China’s nuclear ambitions.
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Finally, Biden must defend Taiwan. “I’m going to have this conversation with him,” Biden said Nov. 9. We will see. Vague red lines won’t help. Biden must impress on Xi that America will arm and protect Taiwan.
Biden posted pointed messages implying that the United States would help defend Taiwan if China invaded.
Sure, the White House backtracks, but the law gives Biden wide latitude to order US military action.
The White House cannot let the State Department’s eagerness to restore dialogue derail deterrence. Every strong word from Biden is effective. China is already angry because the White House plans to debrief Taiwan on the results of the Biden-Xi meeting. I like this.
As Taiwanese politics show, Biden can actually get a lot of help from the rising generation of House and Senate Republicans, who rightly view China as an unparalleled threat. “I’m very, very concerned. China is watching this weak Commander-in-Chief Joe Biden,” Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-NY, said Oct. 4.
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House Republicans like Stefanik will investigate medical research dollars in China, increase defense investment in Taiwan, and continue to restore US military strength. Both sides will have to confront China.
Xi Jinping is determined to dominate the world, but Biden and the likely new GOP house still have a chance to set limits on how far Xi can go.
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