As Xi Jinping and Joe Biden meet in San Francisco in an attempt to lower tensions between the US and China, Taiwan remains a divisive issue between the global powers.
Completely dissuading Xi from retaking Taiwan is likely impossible but the US could try to “slow down or sidetrack a full-blown invasion,” according to geopolitical analyst Kervin AuCoin.
However, tensions over the issue could erupt as Biden and Xi look to achieve a “win” among their respective domestic audiences and on the world stage.
Speaking to Daily Express US, Mr AuCoin said: “Trusting these leaders to have a level-headed conversation? I’m sceptical. Each side is in a staring contest, waiting for the other to blink first.
“The meeting might just be a PR spectacle, lacking any real substance. Breakthroughs? Don’t hold your breath. The entrenched positions make it feel more like a chess match than a diplomatic dialogue.”
China claims Taiwan is a rogue province and that reunification, possibly through force, is inevitable. The US says the democratically-run island must determine its own fate.
Washington, however, has supplied Taiwan with huge amounts of military hardware to defend itself while high-level political visits in recent years have enraged Beijing.
Adding to the tensions, communication between the US and Chinese militaries has broken down resulting in a series of close encounters in the South China Sea and near Taiwan.
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China’s government is behind one of the largest disinformation campaigns in history targeting US citizens while fierce economic competition between the world’s largest economies has ratcheted up tensions.
Still, both men seek to show the world that while the US and China are economic competitors, they are not locked in a winner-take-all faceoff with global implications.
But White House National Council spokesman John Kirby said Biden was “not going to be afraid to confront where confrontation is needed on issues where we don’t see eye to eye.”
The issue of Taiwan is likely to to be a sour point in the talks meant to rebuild relations.
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