Following Xi Summit, Biden Clarifies: U.S. Does Not Endorse Taiwan's Independence From China

President Joe Biden stated Tuesday that the United States would not endorse Taiwan's independence from China.

The message comes one day after Biden reiterated this stance during a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Speaking to reporters in New Hampshire, where he was promoting the recently signed $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, the president said that "nothing" would be altered in regards to American policy on Taiwan.

"Nothing happens. We're not going to change our policy at all," Biden told reporters. When asked to clarify the United States' position on Taiwan, the president added that independence was not something his administration was backing.

"I said that they have to decide, 'they,' Taiwan. Not us. And we are not encouraging independence, we're encouraging that they do exactly what the Taiwan Act requires," Biden continued. "That's what we're doing. Let them make up their mind. Period."

"It's independent. It makes its own decisions," the president added.

Biden told the press that he and Xi spoke for three and a half hours on a wide variety of issues, and made it clear to the Chinese leader that "[the United States is] going to abide by the rules of the road."

A senior White House official also backed up the position of non-independence during another gaggle with reporters. Additionally, a readout of the Biden-Xi meeting stated that the U.S. "strongly opposes unilateral efforts to change the status quo or undermine peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait."

Biden Xi Meeting
President Joe Biden reiterated the United States' 'One China' policy during a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Here, Biden can be seen during a meeting with Xi on Monday. Mandel Ngan/Getty

During a CNN town hall in October, Biden said that the United States would come to the aid of Taiwan if attacked, going against previous conventions.

The president was seemingly referring to legislation that calls for providing weaponry and arms to Taiwan during a Chinese attack, but does not commit to sending soldiers to its shores.

Despite this, it was reported early in October that there were covert American soldiers stationed on the island, who were there to help train Taiwanese soldiers against a potential invasion by China.

This caused increasing tensions between the United States and China, especially in the aftermath of a number of Chinese military planes being spotted off the Taiwanese coast. These tensions were reportedly a significant part of Monday's discussion between Biden and Xi.

How these tensions will play out remains to be seen, but the president did refer to the meeting as "positive," and reportedly assured Xi that the U.S. would "stay outside of their territorial waters" for the time being, but "would not be intimidated."

"We talked about that, and it was ... there was no argumentation, just a matter of fact," Biden said in regards to American travel patterns through the South China Sea.

The United States and Taiwan have long enjoyed significant informal ties, and the island nation continues to be a significant trading partner for the U.S.

Despite this, the U.S. has never officially recognized Taiwan—officially called the Republic of China—as a sovereign state. In 1979, the Carter administration signed a joint communique that established formal diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China, while also reaffirming the U.S.'s acknowledgment—though not recognition—of Beijing's position that Taiwan is part of China.

This 'one China' policy has continued to be the position of every presidential administration since, though critics have long argued for the United States to change its stance on Taiwanese independence.

Despite the two parties not having official diplomatic relations, Taiwan does have a de facto embassy building in Washington, D.C., which plays host to a variety of negotiations.

Newsweek has reached out to the White House for comment.

Correction 11/17/2021 5 p.m. ET: This article originally stated the U.S. has not officially recognized Taiwan as a sovereign state since 1979. However, despite having relations prior to that, the U.S. has never officially recognized Taiwan as a sovereign state.

This article also originally stated that in 1979 the Carter administration passed legislation referring to China as a singular country. What was signed was not legislation, but a joint communique with China in 1979 that established relations with the PRC and also reaffirmed a 1972 joint communiqué in which the U.S. acknowledged but did not recognize) Beijing's position.