Vice President Biden has not publicly discussed China’s recently-established Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) during his trip to Beijing. While in Tokyo, Biden was more stringent, calling the ADIZ an effort to “unilaterally change the status quo in the East China Sea”, and warning, “This action has raised regional tensions and increased the risk of accidents and miscalculation.”
However, once in China Biden’s tone became rather conciliatory. Talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping focused on areas of mutual interest, although important disagreements were brought up. Biden said “Candor generates trust” and Sino-American relations should be “based on trust and a positive notion of each other’s motives”. Vice President Biden also met with American journalists in Beijing, were he stressed the need for freedom of information:
“Innovation thrives where people breathe freely, speak freely, are able to challenge orthodoxy, where newspapers can report the truth without fear of consequences…We have many disagreements, and some profound disagreements, on some of those issues right now, in the treatment of U.S. journalists.”
In recent months several prominent American journalists have lost their legal rights to report from China. Biden’s call for people to “breathe freely” has somewhat humorous undertones, given the severe air pollution of Beijing.
Meanwhile, official Chinese media coverage of Biden’s visit is somewhat contradictory. A piece in People’s Daily says Biden and Xi had frank talks about disagreements over the ADIZ, while another article is entitled “Why Didn’t Biden Challenge Xi Jinping?”
Also of note: just before Biden’s visit, a spokesperson for China’s Defense Ministry made a lengthy clarification of the new ADIZ, saying it “will not affect the freedom of overflight, based on international laws, of other countries’ aircraft”. Along with these reassuring words was a rather confident assertion of power to regional rivals and the United States: “The Chinese military’s determination and volition to safeguard the security of national territory and territorial airspace are unwavering, and the military is fully capable of exercising effective control over the East China Sea ADIZ.“