Your Tuesday Briefing: Biden and Xi Discuss Taiwan

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President Biden and Xi Jinping, China’s leader, met for nearly three hours yesterday.

In their first face-to-face conversation as top leaders, the two men made a cautious pledge to improve the relationship between the U.S. and China, which is at its most rancorous point in decades.

Taiwan was at the top of the agenda, and both leaders urged “peace and stability” in the Taiwan Strait in their summaries after the meetings.

The summary from the U.S. said that Biden warned Xi that China’s aggressive stance toward Taiwan threatened regional stability and could jeopardize the global economy. China’s statement said Xi replied that Taiwan’s independence was as incompatible with peace and stability as “fire and water” and called it a “red line.”

Reaction: Afterward, Biden told reporters, “I do not think there’s an imminent attempt on the part of China to invade Taiwan.” Xi did not take questions from foreign journalists.

Climate: The two countries, the world’s largest emitters, restarted climate talks, which had been frozen since August.

Analysis: Both leaders described the talks as candid. But although Biden seemed determined to stay on the current course, Xi expressed more dissatisfaction with the direction of relations.

Other updates:

For decades, Japan has depended on the U.S. military for protection. Now, as regional threats mount and the war in Ukraine raises alarms, Japan is pushing to increase its own defenses.

The governing party has sought to drastically increase Japan’s defense budget and develop more military hardware domestically. The government is also trying to redefine what it can do with such weapons under the country’s pacifist Constitution, which has been in place since the end of World War II.

By asserting its own deterrent power, Japan — the world’s third-largest economy — could become less a military protectorate of the U.S. and more an equal partner. The effort is intended not to distance it from the protective umbrella, but to ensure that Tokyo’s bond with Washington remains strong.

In so doing, Japan could alter the balance of power in Asia and become a stronger counter to China — which it does not want to antagonize — and North Korea. Both have sent missiles uncomfortably close to Japan in recent months.

Background: Japan hosts the largest contingent of overseas U.S. troops and has bought more U.S.-made F-35 stealth fighter jets than any country other than the U.S.

Even though digital ad sales have slumped dramatically during the global economic slowdown, TikTok stands to make nearly $10 billion in ad revenue this year, more than double 2021’s total, estimates suggest.

Though not immune from market forces, TikTok appears to be stealing business from its rivals. Its ad revenue is expected to eclipse that of Twitter and Snap, though its business remains small compared with Google and Meta. The app has also pushed brands to work with content creators to make ads seem natural. “Don’t make ads, make TikToks,” it told brands.

Screen time: TikTok’s users spend an average of 96 minutes a day on the app, nearly three times what those users spend on Twitter and almost twice as much as on Facebook and Instagram, one analysis found.

In other technology news: Amazon plans to lay off roughly 10,000 workers in corporate and technology jobs as soon as this week.

U.S. Army Rangers killed an infant’s parents in 2019, during a night raid in Afghanistan. Then, a Marine adopted the baby, quickly maneuvering through Afghan and U.S. law. But her Afghan family has said that she was taken under false pretenses, and the U.S. government has stated that the adoption should not have happened.

“This is the story of a baby girl who was rescued by Americans in a battlefield they helped create,” Rozina Ali writes in The Times Magazine. “Ultimately, this is a story about the fictions we tell ourselves about the 20 years we spent in Afghanistan.”

In a new book, Kate Cronin-Furman, a political science professor at University College London, asks a big question: “How do post-atrocity governments respond to international pressure for accountability when they really, really don’t want to do it?”

Take Sri Lanka. During the final phases of its civil war, the U.N. and other international observers accused the government of killing tens of thousands of civilians. The government denied wrongdoing, but set up toothless commissions that were supposedly tasked with accountability.

The commissions gave Sri Lanka time to shape an international narrative, Cronin-Furman told my colleague Amanda Taub. They also gave cover to other states that would otherwise have to take politically unpalatable stances on justice.

Still, the lengths governments will go to delay or avoid an inquiry may suggest that condemnation and investigation have real weight. And even quasi-compliance strengthens the idea that human rights rules should be followed.

“The fact that these human rights tools exist doesn’t, on its own, do anything,” Cronin-Furman told Amanda. “But each time someone picks them up and uses them, at great personal sacrifice and often risk, they make it that much easier and smoother the next time.”


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