A Taiwanese woman at a parade sporting the national colors. Photo: AFP / Chris Stowers

Taiwan was under a spotlight during a three-hour virtual meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Joe Biden on Tuesday, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

Biden said the United States remained committed to the “one China” policy but strongly opposed unilateral efforts to change the status quo or undermine peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.

Xi said Chinese unification was the common wish for all Chinese people while mainland China would remain patient to achieve peaceful reunification with Taiwan. Xi added that Beijing would take decisive actions if Taiwan independence powers crossed the so-called red line.

He said US people who tried to use the Taiwan issue to suppress China were playing with fire and would burn themselves.

Biden also raised concerns about China’s practices in Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong, as well as human rights issues, but Xi reiterated that the US should not intervene in China’s internal affairs.

State-owned China Central Television (CCTV) said they discussed Taiwan, democracy and human rights, trade, energy safety, climate change, public health issues and exchanged views about the situations in Afghanistan, Iran and the Korean peninsula.

Beijing described the meeting as “candid, constructive, substantive and productive” while the White House said Biden welcomed the opportunity to speak candidly and straightforwardly to Xi about US intentions and priorities across a range of issues.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng was interviewed by state media after the meeting. Xie said the content of the meeting could be concluded as “3421,” which refers to three principles, four priorities, two areas of consensus and one important question in the China-US relations.

Xie said that during the meeting, Xi highlighted mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation as three principles in developing China-US relations in the new era.

Xi highlighted mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation in the new era. Photo: Xinhua

Xie said China-US relations should have four priorities, including strong cooperation in climate change, public health, energy and supply chain issues; close communication in economic, energy, military, law enforcement, education, technology, internet and environmental protection issues; a constructive way to handle conflicts and sensitive issues to avoid derailing bilateral relations; and coordination in important international and regional matters to ensure world peace.

Xie said Xi and Biden had areas of consensus that healthy and stable China-US relations were extremely important to the whole world and that they both opposed the idea of a new Cold War. Xie said many US allies did not want to see a Cold War again and were unwilling to take sides between China and the US.

Xie also said that Xi urged the US to stick to its claim that it would not start a new Cold War against China while Xi hoped that the US could contribute to the unity of countries in the Indo-Pacific region.

In a separate article titled “Biden reiterates that he does not support Taiwan independence,” Xie told reporters that the “one important question” in the China-US relations referred to the Taiwan issue.

“Safeguarding sovereignty and territorial integrity is the common will and firm determination of all Chinese people,” said Xi. “The Taiwan issue has always been the most important and sensitive issue in China-US relations, and it is also an issue that must be discussed in every exchange between the two leaders.”

Citing the Chinese version of the Three Communiqués, Xie said the US recognized the government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as the sole legal government of China and also “recognized” the Chinese position that there is but one China and Taiwan is part of China. Xie concluded that there was no room for China to compromise on the sovereignty and territorial integrity issues.

The US and China agreed on the three joint communiques in 1972, 1979 and 1982. According to the English version of the second joint communique, the US acknowledges the Chinese position that there is but one China and Taiwan is part of China.

The word “acknowledge,” which means “accept the truth of,” was translated into “recognize” in the Chinese version of the communique. It has been a topic of debate between the US and China since then.

During the Tuesday meeting, Biden told Xi that the US remained committed to the “one China” policy, guided by the Taiwan Relations Act, the three Joint Communiques and the Six Assurances. He said the US strongly opposed unilateral efforts to change the status quo or undermine peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.

US President Joe Biden said the US had a “commitment to do that” when asked if the US would defend Taiwan from a Chinese attack. Photo: AFP

Passed by the US Congress in 1979, the Taiwan Relations Act has defined the officially substantial but non-diplomatic relations between the people of the US and the people of Taiwan.

The Six Assurances are six key foreign policy principles of the US regarding US-Taiwan relations. They were passed as unilateral US clarifications to the third communique in 1982, aiming to declare that the US would continue to support Taiwan even if it had earlier cut formal diplomatic relations.

On September 10, Xi and Biden held a 90-minute phone call and reportedly agreed that China and the US should resume dialogue in the spirit of equality and mutual respect. Since then, trade officials and diplomats have held several rounds of meetings. On October 6, both sides discussed a possible virtual meeting between Xi and Biden for later this year.

On November 14, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had a phone call with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and expressed concern over China’s continued military, diplomatic, and economic pressure against Taiwan. Blinken urged Beijing to engage in meaningful dialogue to resolve cross-Strait issues peacefully and in a manner consistent with the wishes and best interests of the people on Taiwan.

This followed a spike in military tensions in the Taiwan Strait in early October after the People’s Liberation Army sent about 150 Chinese fighter jets to Taiwan’s southwest air defense identification zone (ADIZ).

On October 25, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged UN member states to support Taiwan’s participation in the UN system. He said Taiwan had become a democratic success story and the island was critical to the global high-tech economy and a hub of travel, culture and education.

On November 9, a US Navy Air Logistics Office plane carrying US congressmen landed at Taipei Songshan Airport. Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said in a statement that the US lawmakers’ relevant itinerary was coordinated with the American Institute in Taiwan, the de facto US embassy on the island. Beijing officials criticized the Taiwanese administration and the US congressmen for the incident.

On December 9 and 10, the US will reportedly hold a Summit for Democracy. It has invited more than 100 countries and governments including Taiwan, but not China.

Read: Xi, Biden call will have Taiwan front and center