Biden’s one-China talk undermined by actions

US leader's speech backing status quo called out by experts citing provocations

US President Joe Biden addresses the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday, Sept 21, 2022, at the UN headquarters. (EVAN VUCCI / AP)

US President Joe Biden on Wednesday told world leaders that the United States wants to avoid a confrontation with China.

But Biden's remark, delivered in a speech at the United Nations General Assembly, or UNGA, has left many wondering how that squares with the actions taken by the US that could lead to more weapons sold to the Taiwan region.

At the 77th Session of the UNGA in New York, he said: "Let me be direct about the competition between the United States and China. As we manage to shift geopolitical trends, the United States will conduct itself as a reasonable leader.

"We do not seek conflict. We do not seek a Cold War. We do not ask any nation to choose between the United States or any other partner."

The US president added: "We seek to uphold peace and stability across the Taiwan Straits. We remain committed to our one-China policy, which has helped prevent conflict for four decades. And we continue to oppose unilateral changes in the status quo by either side."

But foreign policy experts see contradictions in what the president is saying and doing.

Biden's speech came three days after the airing of an interview, on the CBS network's 60 Minutes program, in which he said that US forces would defend Taiwan.

Only last week, the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved the "Taiwan Policy Act of 2022" to boost military support for Taiwan.

Where Biden has slipped up is in his political cravenness to not call out provocations that emanate from his own end, such as House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan in August, said Sourabh Gupta, a senior fellow at the Institute for China-America Studies in Washington.

"He wants to come across as unflinching as Dwight Eisenhower in his support of the defense of Taiwan, and even step slightly beyond the parameters of the US official position on the defense of Taiwan," Gupta told China Daily on Wednesday.

"Yet when it came to tamping down a recklessly provocative action by his own Democratic Party peer, he could barely summon any courage."

One firm call to Pelosi to stand down would have ensured that the visit would have been dropped from her itinerary, he added.

Political convenience

"It's not helpful when President Biden finds his spine on Taiwan only when it is politically convenient," he said. "In my view, this is the nub of the problem with the Biden administration's Taiwan policy."

Yuan Zheng, deputy director of the Institute of American Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that Biden adopts different rhetoric toward China domestically and at the UNGA, as he had to address different groups of audiences. And apparently he has done that several times, Yuan added.

As the congressional midterm elections draw near, Biden wants to showcase to voters that he has strongly supported his country's so-called democratic partners. But he understands clearly that US interference in the Taiwan question would irritate China, and brings many problems, Yuan said.

"The US now says one thing and does another. In the future, its policy toward China will look more wobbly," the scholar said.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said in a daily briefing on Thursday that Biden made the "five noes" commitment many times: not to seek a "new Cold War";not to seek to change China's system; that the revitalization of its alliances is not against China; not support "Taiwan independence";and not look for conflict with China.

He said he hoped that the US will put into practice the remarks made by the US leader, take a correct view on China-US relations, observe the provisions of the three China-US joint communiques, prudently and properly handle Taiwan-related issues, and maintain the political foundation of China-US relations.

"We hope the US will work with China to find a way for two major countries with different social systems, histories and cultures, to live together peacefully and achieve win-win cooperation, so as to not only benefit the Chinese and US people, but also contribute to world peace, stability and development," he said.

Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Monday that the US side's words and deeds all run counter to Biden's commitment to the "five noes".

Wang made the comment during a meeting with former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger on the sidelines of the UNGA on Monday.

During the meeting, Wang urged the US to adopt a rational and pragmatic China policy and to properly handle the Taiwan question.

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