President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping’s inaugural in-person meeting as national leaders of their countries may have been feted as a first tentative step toward improved relations. But their actual remarks only underscore stark differences between the United States and China over the fate of Taiwan.
Biden had met with Xi as vice president in former President Barack Obama’s administration, but the Nov. 14 tete-a-tete marked the first time he did so as president since he beat former President Donald Trump in 2020 and took office on Jan. 20, 2021. Xi has been the paramount leader of China since 2012, a decade in which the communist nation, the world’s most populous country with more than 1.4 million people, has grown increasingly assertive in its South Pacific territorial claims. Beijing has a particular focus on Taiwan, the island long home to the descendants of the Chinese Nationalist government that fled the mainland in 1949 after losing a civil war in the aftermath of World War II.