Now is not the time for the U.S., Taiwan to poke China: NYT's Tom Friedman

CNBC Television
29 Jul 202203:54

TLDRIn a recent discussion, Tom Friedman emphasized the importance of maintaining good relations with China amidst geopolitical tensions, particularly relating to Ukraine and Taiwan. He recounted a significant phone conversation between President Biden and President Xi, where the U.S. urged China not to support Russia militarily in the Ukraine conflict, and China complied for its own interests. Friedman advised against provoking China, especially as the U.S. focuses on supporting Ukraine against Russia. He highlighted Taiwan's precarious position close to China, advocating for caution and diplomacy rather than confrontation at this critical time.


  • 📞 President Biden and President Xi Jinping recently had a two-hour discussion, emphasizing global issues and bilateral concerns.
  • 📘 Tom Friedman, author of several influential books, provides insight into the geopolitical context of U.S.-China relations.
  • 🌏 The conversation between Biden and Xi in February was crucial, urging China not to support Russia militarily in the Ukraine conflict.
  • 🚫 China heeded the U.S. advice and refrained from providing military aid to Russia, which was seen as a significant development.
  • 👵 Friedman cites wisdom from his grandmother, emphasizing the strategy of not antagonizing two superpowers simultaneously.
  • 🎯 The current global priority should be supporting Ukraine in its conflict with Russia, rather than provoking China.
  • 🔍 With the ongoing tensions and strategic interests in Ukraine, maintaining good relations with China is deemed crucial.
  • 🌐 Taiwan's precarious position as a small island near a large mainland poses inherent geopolitical risks.
  • 🛑 In light of the sensitive geopolitical climate, U.S. figures like Nancy Pelosi are advised against making provocative visits to Taiwan.
  • 🕒 The timing is especially delicate as Xi Jinping seeks a third term amid internal challenges, including a problematic COVID strategy.

Q & A

  • What was the main topic of discussion between President Biden and President Xi Jinping during their phone call?

    -President Biden and President Xi Jinping discussed global issues and the impact of the Ukraine war, focusing on China's stance of not providing military aid to Russia.

  • What key advice did Tom Friedman relay from his grandmother regarding international relations?

    -Tom Friedman's grandmother advised never to fight two superpowers at once, emphasizing the importance of focusing on one major international conflict at a time.

  • What is Tom Friedman's perspective on the timing of poking China in relation to Taiwan?

    -Tom Friedman believes that now is not the time to provoke China, especially given the delicate geopolitical situation with Taiwan and the ongoing focus on the Ukraine conflict.

  • Why does Tom Friedman emphasize good relations with China at this moment?

    -Friedman emphasizes maintaining good relations with China to avoid complications while the international community focuses on resolving the conflict in Ukraine.

  • What concerns were raised about Nancy Pelosi's potential visit to Taiwan?

    -Concerns were raised that Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan could provoke China at a sensitive time, potentially distracting from the primary international focus on Ukraine.

  • How does Tom Friedman view Taiwan's position geographically and politically?

    -Tom Friedman acknowledges Taiwan's impressive democracy and technology but cautions about its vulnerable geographic position close to mainland China.

  • What strategic advice does Tom Friedman offer concerning Taiwan's relationship with China?

    -Friedman advises against provoking China through actions like high-profile visits to Taiwan, suggesting that such actions could lead to significant geopolitical consequences.

  • What was the outcome of the tough conversations between the U.S. and China regarding the Ukraine war?

    -The tough conversations resulted in China deciding not to provide military aid to Russia, aligning with U.S. interests to limit the conflict's escalation.

  • What role does China play in the conflict in Ukraine according to Tom Friedman?

    -According to Tom Friedman, China plays a crucial role by not supporting Russia militarily, which helps in the efforts to push Russia out of Ukraine.

  • What is the significance of maintaining open dialogue with China according to the discussion?

    -Maintaining open dialogue with China is crucial to ensure cooperation and prevent any actions that could further complicate international efforts in conflicts like the one in Ukraine.



🌏 U.S.-China Relations and Strategic Advice on Taiwan

In a detailed discussion, the author Tom Friedman comments on a recent two-hour phone call between U.S. President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping, focusing on global political tensions and the strategic implications for Taiwan. Friedman contextualizes the conversation by recalling a significant event where the U.S. warned China against supporting Russia in the Ukraine conflict, which China heeded for its own interests. He emphasizes the importance of maintaining good relations with China to continue supporting Ukraine against Russia, rather than provoking China over Taiwan. Friedman recalls his grandmother's advice on the dangers of small countries like Taiwan forgetting their geographical vulnerabilities. The conversation also touches on concerns within the U.S. about Nancy Pelosi's potential visit to Taiwan, with Friedman advising against it to avoid unnecessary provocations during a critical geopolitical period.




The 'U.S.' refers to the United States of America, a country mentioned frequently in discussions of global politics and international relations. In the context of the transcript, the U.S. is depicted as engaging in strategic diplomacy with China, particularly concerning global conflicts and power dynamics. For instance, discussions between President Biden and President Xi Jinping are highlighted as crucial for influencing China's actions in international affairs.


Taiwan is an island off the southeastern coast of China, recognized for its robust democracy and advanced technology sector. In the transcript, Taiwan is discussed in the geopolitical context of its relationship with China. Tom Friedman, the speaker, advises caution in U.S. dealings with Taiwan to avoid provoking China, especially given the delicate balance of power and the current focus on the conflict in Ukraine.


China is a significant global power in East Asia, frequently involved in complex geopolitical situations. The transcript discusses China's interactions with the U.S., particularly in the context of not supporting Russia in the Ukraine conflict and the potential repercussions of U.S. interactions with Taiwan. The dialogue underscores China's strategic importance and potential responses to international provocations.


The term 'poke' in this context metaphorically describes the act of provoking or antagonizing. Tom Friedman uses it to caution against U.S. actions that could be seen as provoking China, especially at a time when diplomatic focus is needed elsewhere, like supporting Ukraine against Russia. This advice is based on the strategic necessity of maintaining stable relations with China.


Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe, currently central to global geopolitical tensions due to its conflict with Russia. The transcript discusses the U.S. interest in supporting Ukraine to push out Russian military presence. This situation is described as the 'prize' that requires full focus, influencing U.S. diplomatic relations with China.

💡President Xi Jinping

Xi Jinping is the President of China, playing a crucial role in the country's domestic policies and international relations. The transcript notes discussions between President Xi and U.S. President Biden, emphasizing the importance of these engagements in managing global political tensions and China's decision not to support Russia in the Ukraine conflict.


The term 'geopolitical' refers to politics influenced by geographic factors. It often involves global and regional power dynamics. In the video, the geopolitical focus is on the strategic importance of Taiwan's proximity to China and the broader implications of U.S. actions in the area, considering ongoing international conflicts like in Ukraine.

💡New York Times

The New York Times is a prominent U.S. newspaper mentioned in the context of internal concerns about a potential visit by Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan. The mention highlights the media's role in discussing and influencing public perception and political decisions regarding international relations.

💡Nancy Pelosi

Nancy Pelosi, referred to in the transcript, is a high-ranking U.S. politician whose actions regarding foreign visits can have significant diplomatic implications. Her potential visit to Taiwan is framed as a concern that could provoke China, influencing U.S. international strategy as discussed by Tom Friedman.


Diplomacy refers to the management of relationships between countries through negotiation and dialogue. The transcript highlights diplomacy between the U.S. and China, emphasizing its crucial role in addressing global challenges like the conflict in Ukraine and managing sensitive issues like Taiwan without escalating tensions.


President Biden and President Xi Jinping discussed global issues in their fifth phone call, lasting over two hours.

Tom Friedman emphasizes the importance of not provoking China, especially in the context of ongoing tensions in Ukraine.

China refrained from supporting Russia in the Ukraine conflict, aligning with its own national interests.

Friedman highlights the strategic advice of focusing on Ukraine and not antagonizing China, using his grandmother's wisdom as an analogy.

Discussion on Taiwan's strategic and geographical challenges in the face of its powerful neighbor, China.

Friedman advises caution and diplomacy in handling relations with China, especially considering Taiwan's vulnerable position.

The conversation also touches on internal U.S. concerns about Nancy Pelosi's potential visit to Taiwan and its diplomatic implications.

Friedman criticizes the timing of Pelosi's planned visit, suggesting it could unnecessarily provoke China.

The importance of maintaining open dialogue and good relations with China as emphasized by Friedman.

Xi Jinping's leadership challenges, including his COVID strategy and domestic issues, are discussed as factors in China's international posture.

Friedman uses the metaphor 'Wag the Dog' to describe potential distractions from domestic problems through international actions.

The conversation includes a reminder of the geopolitical stakes involved in China's decisions regarding Taiwan.

Friedman praises Taiwan's democracy and technological advances while warning against taking aggressive actions.

The strategic advice against fighting two superpowers at once, derived from Friedman's grandmother's sayings.

The need for strategic patience and avoiding any moves that could escalate tensions with China.