The US president has theorized that his Chinese counterpart is preoccupied with an economic crisis and will not launch an offensive
US President Joe Biden has suggested that Chinese leaders are too immersed in dealing with their country’s economic woes to launch an attack to forcibly reunify with self-governing Taiwan.
Speaking at a press briefing on Sunday during his state visit to Hanoi, Biden was asked whether Beijing’s economic struggles might lead to a more aggressive stance toward Taipei. “I don’t think it’s going to cause China to invade Taiwan; matter of fact, the opposite,” he said. “[China] probably doesn’t have the same capacity that it had before.”
Referring to Chinese President Xi Jinping as “Prime Minister Xi,” Biden said China’s leader is “working his way through” economic difficulties, particularly in the real estate industry. “He has his hands full right now,” the US president claimed. “He has overwhelming unemployment with his youth. One of the major economic tenets of his plan isn’t working at all right now. I’m not happy for that, but it’s not working.”
Biden, who last month called Beijing’s economy a “ticking time bomb,” denied that his administration has tried to contain China’s economic growth or its geopolitical influence. “I want to see China succeed economically, but I want to see it succeed by the rules.”
He added that recent US efforts to forge closer defense ties with China’s neighbors are designed to “maintain stability,” not hurt Beijing. “It’s about making sure the rules of the road – everything from airspace and space in the ocean, the international rules of the road – are abided by.”
Since Biden took office in 2021, Sino-US relations have deteriorated amid the Russia-Ukraine conflict and Washington’s alleged meddling in the Taiwan Strait. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi warned last week that Southeast Asian nations were at risk of being used as geopolitical pawns and triggering an Indo-Pacific version of the Ukraine crisis.
Although Biden emphasized that he does not aim to hurt China, he added, “What I’m not going to do is, I’m not going to sell China material that would enhance their capacity to make more nuclear weapons, to engage in defense activities that are contrary to what is viewed as — most people think is — a positive development in the region.”
Biden argued that the US has the “strongest economy in the world,” and he speculated that China’s economic weakness will make conflict between the countries less likely. “I just think there are other things on leaders’ minds, and they respond to what’s needed at the time,” he said.
China warns neighbors against repeat of ‘Ukraine tragedy’
Chinese gross domestic product grew at a 5.5% pace in this year’s first half, compared with a US growth rate of around 2%. China’s ambassador to Washington, Xie Feng, warned late last month that it would be “utter fantasy” to expect the US to thrive in the event of a Chinese economic collapse. He added that US efforts to “decouple” from Beijing economically would “further complicate an already arduous global recovery.”