America is engaged in a monumental struggle global struggle with China. While the White House is already downplaying expectations for the sideline meeting between President Joe Biden and China’s Xi Jinping, the fact is this struggle is at a pivotal phase.
The Bali meeting between Biden and Xi on the sidelines of the G20 will be short. Expect Biden to do most of the talking; previous Zoom calls have lasted up to three hours, when Biden got in lecture mode.
It’s a G20 meeting, so get ready for gooey talk about energy transitions and global economic recovery. But don’t expect any major trade concessions or diplomatic "deliverables," says the White House. They know Xi is not there to negotiate. China’s penetration of American universities, cyber theft of technology, and takeover of the United Nations is humming along, so China’s incentive to talk is minimal right now.
Xi Jinping wants to show up in Bali, Indonesia and take a victory lap after cementing his total political control of China last month. The G20 and guests are his best customers, after all.
However, the G20 (minus Russia) is also pretty much the core of the international system. These are the countries China wants to dominate, as Xi tries to push the U.S. out of the world leadership role. The attendees also include America’s best allies and friends.
In Indonesia, the big task for Biden is to remind the G20 nations that despite Xi Jinping’s ruthless ambitions, the U.S. is still the sole superpower in the world today. Specifically, Biden should take Xi to task for his support of Russia’s war in Ukraine, the massive nuclear build-up, and of course the threats against Taiwan.
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To start, Biden can and should rally the many supporters of Ukraine and call out Xi Jinping’s for backing Russia’s war. He will never admit it but watching the success of Ukraine against Russia has startled Xi.
China’s military has impressive equipment but basically zero combat experience. Using American weapons and tactics, Ukraine is pulverizing Russia’s big military.
China picked a loser by backing Putin and Xi has got to be having doubts about all those Russian weapons in China’s arsenal, and exactly what bad tactics Chinese troops learned from joint drills with Russia. Biden gains a lot from the reflected glow of Ukraine’s success.
And he’ll need it for the second task: delivering a message on nuclear deterrence. Xi has China on course to build hundreds of new nuclear weapons.
New missile fields, the orbiting nuclear weapons, more road-mobile missiles with multiple warheads: China is racing to overtake the U.S. arsenal.
China refuses to discuss arms control and appears to view the nuclear triad as a tool of coercion, not stability.
In the decade ahead, the U.S. will be hard-pressed to buy enough new B-21 bombers, nuclear missiles and Columbia-class submarines to deter China. Biden needs to drop the Obama-era no nukes verbiage and tell Xi the U.S. will deter China’s nuclear ambitions.
Finally, Biden must stand up for Taiwan. "I’m going to have that conversation with him," Biden declared Nov. 9. We’ll see. Vague red lines won’t help. Biden must make clear to Xi that America will arm and protect Taiwan.
Biden has come out with sharp messages implying the United States will help defend Taiwan if China invades.
Sure, the White House walks it back, but the law gives Biden wide latitude to order U.S. military action.
The White House can’t let State Department eagerness to restore dialogue derail deterrence. Every strong word from Biden is effective. China’s already angry because the White House plans to debrief Taiwan on the results of the Biden-Xi meeting. I like that.
As Taiwan policy shows, Biden can actually get a lot of help from the rising generation of House and Senate Republicans, who rightly see China as a threat like no other. "I’m very, very concerned. China is watching this weak commander in chief Joe Biden," Rep. Elise Stefanik, R- N.Y., said Oct. 4.
House Republicans like Stefanik will investigate medical research dollars to China, bump up defense investment in Taiwan, and keep restoring U.S. military strength. It’s going to take both parties to face down China.
Xi Jinping is bent on world domination, but Biden and the likely new GOP House still have opportunities to set limits on how far Xi can go.