President Joe Biden has received mixed responses from Congress over his virtual meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, with several Republican lawmakers calling the president out for not pressing Xi on Beijing’s various aggressions.
Biden and Xi on Nov. 15 talked for about three and a half hours in their first-ever virtual summit, focusing on issues that included Afghanistan, Iran, North Korea, and Taiwan. According to the White House, Biden raised concerns about China’s human rights violations and unfair trade and economic practices.
After the summit, a senior administration official said the leaders did not reach any “breakthrough” on issues concerning both countries.
On Tuesday, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Washington and Beijing will focus on four key areas in their future bilateral engagement. This includes major issues such as implementing the COP26 climate deal, improving direct communication, and resolving outstanding issues in the Phase One trade deal.
Some Republican lawmakers issued statements criticizing Biden for failing to do more at the summit.
“President Biden had the chance to actually stand up to Beijing’s genocide and human rights abuses, but again, he has chosen appeasement and weakness over strength and resolve,” said Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), according to a statement from his office.
Scott added: “Time and time again, Biden does the bare minimum when it comes to dealing with China and it’s absolutely unacceptable. He refused to confront General Secretary Xi about his military’s endless harassment of Taiwan, one of our most important partners in the Asia-Pacific.”
According to the White House, Biden told Xi that the United States remains “committed to the ‘One China’ policy, guided by the Taiwan Relations Act, the three Joint Communiques, and the Six Assurances.” Biden also voiced opposition against “unilateral efforts to change the status quo or undermine peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.”
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) sees Taiwan as part of its territory that needs to be united with the mainland, by force if necessary.
According to China’s state-run media, Xi warned Biden that China “will have to take decisive measures” if so-called Taiwan independence forces “cross the red line.”
Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.) issued a statement saying that Biden missed the opportunity to stand up against Beijing’s aggression.
“This meeting between President Biden and President Xi Jinping was a missed opportunity to reassert the United States’ strength and will on the global stage,” Wittman stated.
He added: “To be clear: President Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party are not friends of the United States. The CCP poses a clear and real threat to our nation, one that must be taken seriously.”
Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, warned the Biden administration about working with the CCP.
“While the Biden Administration would like to cooperate with Beijing on certain global issues, the CCP has shown time and again that it can’t be trusted–it always puts the Party’s interests first,” Risch wrote in a statement.
Risch added that if Xi wants a “cooperative relationship” with the United States, he must “stop threatening Taiwan, economically coercing and punishing other countries, and perpetrating egregious human rights abuses, including genocide against Uyghurs and other minorities in Xinjiang.”
The United States designated the suppression campaign in China’s far-western Xinjiang region as a form of genocide in January. Since then, Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom have followed suit.
Rep. Ami Bera (D-Calif.) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) took to Twitter to express their support for Biden and the summit.
“I commend @POTUS for engaging directly with President Xi on important issues including human rights, support for allies and partners, and international rules and norms,” Bera wrote. Bera is chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia.
Markey applauded Biden for engaging Xi on issues such as nuclear non-proliferation, the climate crisis, and human rights.
“It’s extremely important that we have open communication with China so we can seek cooperation and avoid miscalculations,” Markey stated.