China's Xi accused the US of trying to trick him into invading Taiwan, but said he won't take the bait, report says

China's Xi accused the US of trying to trick him into invading Taiwan, but said he won't take the bait, report says
  • Xi Jinping accused the US of trying to trick China into invading Taiwan, the Financial Times said.

  • The Chinese leader made the claim to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, per the FT.

  • One expert told BI it's a sign that China is "genuinely surprised" by the attitude of US officials.

China's leader, Xi Jinping, accused the US of trying to trick China into invading Taiwan but said his country wouldn't take the bait, the Financial Times reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

The FT said Xi made the accusation in April last year during a meeting with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

Xi has issued the same warning to officials in his own country, one person told the FT, but this is first known case of him making the claim to a foreign leader, the outlet said.

During the meeting, according to a press statement released at the time, Xi said Taiwan was at the "core" of China's interests, adding: "If anyone expects China to compromise and concede on the Taiwan question, they are having a pipe dream and would shoot themselves in the foot."

Xi's accusation against the US wasn't featured in the statement.

For decades, the US has adopted "strategic ambiguity" toward Taiwan, positioning itself as the country's most steadfast ally, while declining to explicitly say whether it would come to Taiwan's aid if China attacked.

But the mood in Washington, DC, seems to be shifting, with Congress showing itself more "overtly supportive of Taiwan than only a few years ago," Graeme Thompson, an analyst with the Eurasia Group, told Business Insider in November.

Last month, a US congressional delegation met with senior Taiwanese officials to discuss US-Taiwan relations a few days after China conducted military drills around the island.

During the visit, Rep. Andy Barr, a cochair of the Taiwan caucus in Congress, said there should be "no doubt" and "no skepticism" in the US, Taiwan, or anywhere else around "American resolve to maintain the status quo and peace in the Taiwan Strait," according to the Associated Press.

President Joe Biden has repeatedly said that the US would defend Taiwan.

Kerry Brown, the director of the Lau China Institute at King's College London, told BI that Xi's reported accusation is a sign that China is "genuinely surprised" and "shocked" by the US's more recent "aggressiveness."

"The US has plenty of public figures now talking of Taiwan like it is a new Ukraine, and some even saying it needs to be diplomatically recognized," Brown added.

Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state during the Trump administration, and John Bolton, a former national security advisor, are among those calling for such a measure.

This is a problem for China, Brown said, as it's "clearly a red line and one that it will need to do something about if it is crossed."

During a meeting in April, China's foreign minister, Wang Yi, told US Secretary of State Antony Blinken not to cross China's "red lines" on sovereignty, security, and development interests.

Brown, who served as first secretary at the UK Embassy in Beijing from 2000 to 2003, said that behind Xi's "complaint" was the hope that other Western allies "might just calm the US down."

Whether it will have any impact is another matter, he added.

Last week, Adm. Samuel Paparo, the top US admiral in the Pacific, told The Washington Post that the US could deploy thousands of drones if China invaded Taiwan, with the "unmanned hellscape" buying time for the US military to come to Taiwan's aid.

Correction: June 17, 2024 — An earlier version of this story misspelled the last name of an analyst. It is Thompson, not Thomson.

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