Congressional Republicans mostly condemned President Joe Biden for saying that there “need not be a new Cold War” between the U.S. and China, following a three-hour summit meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Indonesia.
A few Republicans, however, joined members of Biden’s Democratic Party in cautiously welcoming signs that the meeting may have helped to head off misunderstandings that could lead to unnecessary conflict.
Republican Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas tweeted, “Joe Biden has again failed to address or even acknowledge China’s Cold War against the United States. His naive return to a policy of appeasement will hurt the United States, endanger Taiwan, and further embolden Xi Jinping.”
Biden also said, “I don’t think there’s any imminent attempt by China to invade Taiwan,” despite escalating military moves by Beijing in the Taiwan Strait.
Before the meeting, Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu told VOA that “if the senior leaders or the president, the vice president of the United States are able to speak with the Chinese leaders to address the concerns about the peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait or China’s violation of the status quo, I think it’s going to be very helpful to regional peace.”
Biden’s remarks drew a backlash from several Republican lawmakers.
Tennessee Senator Marsha Blackburn, also a Republican, tweeted, “Xi Jinping is focused on global domination, not working with the Biden administration on climate change.”
Meetings described as ‘candid and constructive’
The leaders of the world’s two largest economies met this week on the eve of the G-20 summit in Bali. Each of the men had scored recent political victories at home — Xi starting an unprecedented third term and Biden riding on what is seen as a win for his Democratic Party after a strong showing in the U.S. midterm elections.
The two engaged in a frank conversation about their respective priorities and intentions on a range of issues, according to minutes of the meeting released by the White House.
Biden emphasized the necessity for the U.S. and China to work together on transnational challenges, including climate change, global macroeconomic stability including debt relief, health security, and global food security, according to the readout.
China’s Foreign Ministry said, “Both presidents viewed the meeting as in-depth, candid and constructive. They instructed their teams to promptly follow up and implement the important common understandings reached between them, and take concrete actions to put China-U.S. relations back on the track of steady development.”
Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who is vice chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence and a senior member of the Committee on Foreign Relations, said the Bali meeting was not a turning point in U.S.-China relations.
Rubio told VOA Mandarin during an interview on Monday that “no meeting is going to solve the deep issues between the U.S. and China … which will remain the challenge of the centuries.”
In a written statement issued on Monday before Xi and Biden met, Rubio criticized Biden for “dangerously” misunderstanding “the CCP [Chinese Communist Party], which openly pushes for conflict with the United States and its allies.”
“This meeting should have held the CCP accountable for its rampant human rights abuses, ongoing theft of American intellectual property, and its refusal to investigate the origins of COVID-19,” Rubio said. “Instead, President Biden demonstrated that he is willing to sacrifice everything — including our national security and the security of our allies — for the sake of pursuing ill-fated climate talks with our nation’s greatest adversary.”
‘It’s good that we’re talking’
Democratic Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia, however, thinks the long meeting indicated a positive development.
“Three hours isn’t necessarily a good sign, but I think it’s positive, because there’re so many issues, and that tells me that both went into the meeting understanding how important U.S.-China communication is at a minimum,” he told VOA Mandarin on Monday. “So I was happy to hear that.”
Republican Senator Mike Rounds of South Dakota told VOA Mandarin on Monday that it’s important to maintain good relations with China.
“The Chinese Communist Party may have different points of view about how to get there,” he said. “We want to make clear our positions, but we also want them to understand that you would much rather have peace than to have conflict.
“I am always hopeful that communications and diplomacy can win out,” he added. “Time will tell whether or not we had a successful meeting. But it’s good that we’re talking.”
Democratic Representative Gregory Meeks of New York and Republican Representative Ami Bera of California said in a statement that “candid dialogue and sustained diplomacy are necessary to ensure that this competition is healthy, constructive, and does not devolve into conflict.”
But, they added, engagement with China “will continue to be based on the principle of strategic competition … as long as Beijing continues to ignore international rules and norms — whether it’s China’s aggression in the Taiwan Strait, its genocide in Xinjiang, its oppression in Hong Kong and Tibet, or its support for Russia’s and North Korea’s destabilizing actions.”
Adrianna Zhang contributed to this report.