During their recent summit in San Francisco, Chinese President Xi Jinping conveyed to President Joe Biden that the reunification of Taiwan with mainland China is a definite goal for Beijing, but the timing has not been decided, according to information from three current and former U.S. officials.
In a group meeting attended by officials from both nations, Xi emphasized China’s preference for a peaceful reunification with Taiwan rather than a forcible takeover, as relayed by the officials. He also dismissed alleged U.S. military predictions of specific timelines for the reunification, asserting that no such timeframe has been set.
Leading up to the summit, Chinese officials had sought a public statement from President Biden affirming U.S. support for China’s aim of peacefully unifying with Taiwan and opposing Taiwanese independence. However, the White House rejected this request.
These details shed light on a crucial meeting aimed at mitigating tensions between the two countries, particularly as China’s actions toward Taiwan are perceived as increasingly assertive. The private warning from Xi to Biden gained attention given the backdrop of heightened tensions and an upcoming presidential election in Taiwan.
Following the initial publication of this information, Sen. Lindsey Graham called for bipartisan efforts to deter China, describing the reported developments as deeply concerning. He proposed swift actions, including creating a robust defense supplemental for Taiwan and drafting pre-invasion sanctions against China.
Officials familiar with the summit characterized Xi as straightforward and candid in his conversation with Biden, emphasizing that his language was consistent with previous public statements. The Biden administration is actively seeking to avoid military conflict with China amid concerns about Xi’s assertive stance on Taiwan.
Xi’s statements at the Chinese Communist Party Congress last year, where he declared the possibility of military action if Taiwan seeks independence with foreign support, continue to raise apprehensions. Some experts question the likelihood of a Chinese attack on Taiwan if it refrains from declaring independence, as it could impede China’s economic goals.
During the San Francisco summit, Xi expressed concerns about the upcoming presidential election in Taiwan and acknowledged the U.S. influence on the island. In response to Biden’s plea for respecting Taiwan’s electoral process, Xi emphasized the need for eventual resolution.
The meeting between Biden and Xi, the first in a year, was secured after months of diplomatic efforts to improve relations following a period of strain. The White House had hoped the summit would ease tensions, with Biden underscoring the importance of avoiding conflict in the competitive relationship between China and the United States.
CIA Director William Burns previously stated that U.S. intelligence suggested Xi had directed military readiness for a potential invasion of Taiwan by 2027, emphasizing the seriousness of China’s focus. While Biden has affirmed the U.S. commitment to defend Taiwan in case of invasion, the White House has clarified his statements.
Reiterating the longstanding “One China” policy, the U.S. officially recognizes Beijing as the sole legal government of China but maintains unofficial relations with Taiwan. Biden, after the summit, affirmed this policy, stating that it will not change. Chinese official Hua Chunying, who attended the meeting, shared on social media that Xi considers the Taiwan issue the most critical and sensitive in China-U.S. relations, asserting that reunification is inevitable and unstoppable.