Taiwanese officials rarely spar with Xi Jinping in the Asia talks

Taiwanese officials had a rare encounter with Chinese President Xi Jinping while attending an Asian economic forum last week.

Morris Chang, Taiwan’s envoy to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, said he had a “nice” interaction with the Chinese leader. Reuters reported that Zhang, the founder of Taiwanese chip giant TSMC, opened the meeting on Friday upon his return to Taipei on Monday.

“Sure, the presidential office said to me if there was a chance there was no need to avoid a meeting or a greeting. That was the only directive,” Zhang said.

He added that he congratulated Xi on his re-election at the 20th CPC Congress, thus consolidating his power.

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Chinese President Xi Jinping looks on as he attends a session during the G20 Summit in Nusa Dua on the Indonesian resort island of Bali on November 16, 2022.
(WILLY KRANIUAN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

China cut off official interactions with Taiwan after Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen was elected in 2016, but the annual APEC forum remained one of the few examples where the two governments interact, even if briefly, according to Reuters.

Taiwan separated from China in 1949 after democratic forces lost a civil war to the Chinese Communist Party and fled to the island. China has long pressed for reunification, and has threatened to do so by force. The Beijing government views Tsai as a separatist seeking Taiwan independence.

The brief interaction in APEC comes after China conducted weeks of military operations surrounding Taiwan in an apparent simulation of an invasion.

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), center left, poses for photos after receiving the Medal of Favorable Clouds with the Order of the Grand Cordon, Taiwan's highest civilian honor, from Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, center right, at the President's Office.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), center left, poses for photos after receiving the Medal of Favorable Clouds with the Order of the Grand Cordon, Taiwan’s highest civilian honor, from Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, center right, at the President’s Office.
(Shin Chi Hong/Office of the President via Getty Images)

The Chinese escalation came after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited the island in early August. Her trip was among a series of visits to the island by US lawmakers, which have angered China.

Beijing argues the flights violate America’s one-China policy, which states that the United States recognizes Beijing as the sole government of China and will not establish formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan.

In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, fighter jets of the People's Liberation Army's Eastern Theater Command conduct joint combat exercises around the island of Taiwan on Sunday, Aug. 7, 2022. China said on Monday that it is extending the threat military exercise.  surrounding Taiwan, which has disrupted shipping and air traffic and raised grave concerns about the potential for conflict in a region crucial to global trade.

In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, fighter jets of the People’s Liberation Army’s Eastern Theater Command conduct joint combat exercises around the island of Taiwan on Sunday, Aug. 7, 2022. China said on Monday that it is extending the threat military exercise. surrounding Taiwan, which has disrupted shipping and air traffic and raised grave concerns about the potential for conflict in a region crucial to global trade.
(Gong Yulong/Xinhua via Associated Press)

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The United States has adopted a policy of “strategic ambiguity” with regard to Taiwan. President Biden has stated four times as president that the United States would intervene if China invaded the island, but White House officials retracted the statement each time.

Biden emphasized that there was no change in US policy in his face-to-face meeting with Xi last week.

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