President Joe Biden said Sunday that the economic challenges facing China are making a potential invasion of Taiwan less likely.
Biden told reporters in a press conference in Vietnam that China’s economic growth is slowing due to a combination of a weak global economy and unspecified Chinese government policies. As a result, Chinese leader Xi Jinping "has his hands full right now" which Biden believes makes an invasion of Taiwan less likely.
"I don’t think this is going to cause China to invade Taiwan," Biden said regarding the economic challenges facing China. "As a matter of fact, the opposite, it probably doesn’t have the same capacity that it had before."
Taiwan is a democratic, self-governing island nation that China’s government regards as a rogue province despite the fact that the Chinese Communist Party has never ruled Taiwan since it seized control of the mainland in 1949 following a 22-year civil war.
Xi and other Chinese officials have repeatedly declined to rule out the use of force to bring about Taiwan’s "reunification" with the People’s Republic of China. Taiwan’s role as a leading producer of high-end semiconductors that power much of the world economy makes it an attractive target for China.
Biden said China’s economic situation is a "crisis" and cited issues with the country’s real estate sector and high youth unemployment. "One of the major economic tenets of his plan isn’t working at all right now," Biden said of Xi. "I’m not happy for that, but it’s not working."
The president said he held the highest-level talks with the Chinese government while at the G20 summit in India since he last spoke to Xi at last year’s G20 nearly 10 months ago. Biden met with Chinese Premier Li Qiang, who took the number two role in China’s government in March.
"My team, my staff still meets with President Xi’s people and his cabinet," Biden said. "I met with his number two person in India today."
Trade data from August showed that China’s exports and imports both narrowed their declines, indicating a possible stabilization amid the economic downturn.
Li has said China should achieve its 2023 growth target of about 5%, although some analysts believe a worsening property slump, weak consumer spending and falling credit growth could hurt the Chinese economy.