No More Summits for Biden

Joe Biden on Monday finally got the summit he had long sought with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Biden officials and many in the mainstream media credited the three-and-a-half-hour virtual summit with reducing tensions between the two nations by promoting dialogue and diplomacy. 

But in fact, Biden should not have skipped his bedtime. The optics of him again appearing as an extremely weak and indecisive president, contrasted with the strong leader of a U.S. adversary, were so bad that White House officials should avoid any more bilateral meetings like this in the future.

It was clear that Xi came to the summit prepared to intimidate Biden and dominate the discussion. He bullied Biden with accusations against U.S. and Taiwanese officials for stirring up tensions with China over Taiwanese independence. Biden said very little in reply.

For his part, Biden took a much softer approach. He emphasized easing tensions and constructing “guardrails” in U.S.-China “competition,” urging China to act responsibly and sought more cooperation and diplomacy. 

Biden read a laundry list of U.S. grievances prepared by the State Department concerning human rights, arms control, Taiwan, regional security, and other issues. But he showed no urgency about any of them or expressed any serious U.S. policy to address them. 

Biden again failed to demand Chinese cooperation in investigating the origins of the coronavirus in a Chinese biolab, which thus far has killed more than 767,000 Americans. 

Although Biden said the United States “strongly opposes unilateral efforts to change the status quo or undermine peace and stability,” he endorsed the U.S. “One China” policy. He also didn’t complain about China’s recent provocations against Taiwan, flying large numbers of fighter planes and bombers into its Air Defense Identification Zone, practicing invasion tactics, and erecting mock-ups of U.S. aircraft carriers for Chinese air force pilots to practice attacking American warships.

The Chinese state-run Global Times interpreted Biden’s words on Taiwan as “injecting certainty” into the U.S-China relationship. That sounds like Chinese officials are certain Biden will not stand with our ally Taiwan if China launches an invasion.

At the same time, Biden talked about the urgency of U.S.-China cooperation on climate change, an issue Beijing has no interest in whatsoever.

In short, Joe Biden exhibited weakness and made unserious remarks during a bilateral meeting with the leader of America’s top adversary. Coming at a time when the threat from China to our security and economy is rapidly increasing, Biden let Beijing off the hook and conducted business as usual.

The same thing happened in June when Biden met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva. In his post-summit press conference, Biden gave a rambling and confusing media appearance in which he claimed he was “clear” with Putin on a range of issues and gave him a helpful list of U.S. infrastructure against which Russia must not conduct cyber attacks.

Putin, on the other hand, came off as competent and confident. He made it clear he completely rejected Biden’s criticisms by going on a tear promoting Russian propaganda. He also denied persecuting opposition leader Alexei Navalny and his movement, claiming (like Biden) that his political opponents were “extremists” who had called for mass disorder.

Both summits were embarrassing and harmful for Biden and our country because they conveyed a weak and indecisive leader incapable of serving as commander in chief. This perception is leading America’s enemies to see the Biden presidency as a window of opportunity to engage in dangerous provocations and adventurism they would never attempt during the tenure of a competent U.S. leader. 

This likely explains the surge in Chinese provocations against Taiwan and the build up of Russian troops on the Russia-Ukraine border.

Biden’s capability to conduct high-level summitry is not going to improve. His handlers should keep him away from doing any more in the future. Biden should not be put in the position of looking weak, indecisive, or foolish ever again in the company of an adversary.

Instead, Biden’s bilateral interactions with world leaders should be limited to private phone calls, at most. If Biden is to meet with leaders like Putin or Xi, it should be as part of delegations of competent U.S. officials. (This should include CIA Director William Burns, because Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan have proved to be weak and inexperienced.) Any press conference after these meetings should be conducted by the White House press secretary, not Biden.

We have just over three years left in Biden’s term. To protect our freedom and security, it is urgent that White House officials and congressional Democrats stem the damage Biden is doing to America’s reputation as a strong and decisive nation by preventing any more public humiliations like the Xi and Putin summits.

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About Fred Fleitz

Fred Fleitz is Vice Chair of the America First Policy Institute Center for American Security. He previously served as Chief of Staff of the Trump National Security Council and as a CIA analyst.

Photo: MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images