Prof. ST Hsieh
Director, US-China Energy Industry Forum
June 2, 2023
US-China relation has been at a dangerously low point, of course it should be carefully managed even it appears thawing. There are many issues of concern between the world two largest economies, while the US considers China as the most consequential threat in the history. President Biden has not delivered any speech focused on his China policy. China has declared that Taiwan is her core interest and will not budge.
Lately, there are many bilateral contacts between high level officials in the US and China signaling that both nations are committed on improving the relation. The news report that CIA Chief Burns made secret trip to China last month is a very positive sign. It also means that US-China effectively maintain “open lines of communications in intelligence channels” directly at the highest level. Thus, the US and China have an effective crisis management mechanism.
US-China trade disputes are the most urgent issues that need to be addressed because they affect the global economy and consumers every day. Fortunately, meetings between the counterparts and diplomats are taking place already, even though no substantial breakthrough is being made yet.
High level military to military meetings have not occurred. Since President Biden and President Xi have agreed to lower the tensions, the defense ministers should make clear to all their commanders and officers to avoid any incident at any cost. In the meantime, if manmade obstacles such as US lift the sanction on Chinese Defense Chief may help.
CIA chief made secret trip to China in bid to thaw relations.
CIA chief made secret trip to China in bid to thaw relations.
CIA director Bill Burns travelled to China last month, a clandestine visit by one of President Joe Biden’s most trusted officials that signals how concerned the White House had become about deteriorating relations between Beijing and Washington. Five people familiar with the situation said Burns, a former top diplomat who is frequently entrusted with delicate overseas missions, travelled to China for talks with officials. Another person stressed that Burns did not have any diplomatic engagements, and only met intelligence officials. The trip by Burns, the most senior Biden administration official to visit China, came amid Washington’s push for high-level engagements with Beijing to try to stabilise the relationship. “Last month, director Burns travelled to Beijing where he met with Chinese counterparts and emphasised the importance of maintaining open lines of communications in intelligence channels,” said one US official. The White House and CIA declined to comment. Burns’ mission took place in the same month US national security adviser Jake Sullivan met Wang Yi, China’s top foreign policy official, in Vienna. The White House did not announce that meeting until it had concluded. Burns’ trip was also the highest-level visit to China by a US official since deputy secretary of state Wendy Sherman went to Tianjin in July 2021. Biden has on several occasions asked the CIA director to conduct delicate missions, at home and overseas.
Several people familiar with the situation said Biden last year sent Burns to Capitol Hill in an effort to persuade then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi not to travel to Taiwan. The White House has been trying to kick-start exchanges with China after a particularly turbulent period that started in February when a suspected Chinese spy balloon flew over North America. Biden last month said he expected an imminent “thaw” in relations without providing any detail. Burns travelled to China before Biden made the comment at a G7 summit in Hiroshima.
“As both an experienced diplomat and senior intelligence official, Burns is uniquely placed to engage in a dialogue that can potentially contribute to the Biden administration’s objective of stabilising ties and putting a floor under the relationship,” said Bonnie Glaser, a China expert at the German Marshall Fund. Paul Haenle, a former top White House China official, said one advantage of sending Burns was that he was respected by Democrats and Republicans and also well known to Chinese officials. “They know him as a trusted interlocutor. They would welcome the opportunity to engage him quietly behind the scenes,” said Haenle, now director of the Carnegie China think-tank. “They will see a quiet discreet engagement with Burns as a perfect opportunity.”
While Burns is widely viewed as one of the most trusted figures in the US government, his trip continues a tradition of CIA directors being used for sensitive missions. “CIA directors have a long history of secret diplomacy. They are able to travel in complete secrecy and often have strong relationships with the host intelligence services built over time,” said Dennis Wilder, a former CIA China expert who also served as the top White House Asia official during the George W Bush administration.
The US has been trying to resurrect a trip to China that secretary of state Antony Blinken abruptly cancelled over the balloon incident, but Beijing has so far refused to give it a green light. Chinese defence minister Li Shangfu has also refused to meet US defence secretary Lloyd Austin in Singapore this weekend because Washington has refused to lift sanctions on him. While the two ministers were not expected to have a formal meeting, the Pentagon said they “spoke briefly” at the opening dinner of the forum, which is held by the International Institute for Strategic Studies. “The two leaders shook hands, but did not have a substantive exchange,” the Pentagon said.
U.S. defence chief slams China for lack of military dialogue
SINGAPORE, June 3 (Reuters) – United States Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said on Saturday he was deeply concerned by China’s unwillingness to engage on military crisis management, warning that talks are key to avoiding conflict.
Speaking at Asia’s top security summit, Austin said that open lines of communication between U.S. and Chinese defence and military leaders were essential to strengthen guard rails against conflict and bolster stability in the Asia-Pacific.
“I am deeply concerned that the PRC (People’s Republic of China) has been unwilling to engage more seriously on better mechanisms for crisis management between our two militaries,” Austin told the Shangri-La Dialogue, Asia’s top security gathering, in Singapore.
“The more that we talk, the more that we can avoid the misunderstandings and miscalculations that could lead to crisis or conflict.”
One of the thorniest security issues between the two superpowers is over the future of Taiwan, a self-governing territory which Beijing wants to bring under its rule.
He said the U.S. was “deeply committed” to preserving the status quo in Taiwan and opposes unilateral changes from either side.
“Conflict is neither imminent nor inevitable. Deterrence is strong today and it’s our job to keep it that way,” Austin said.
US Treasury official meets with China’s new ambassador in Washington
Fri, June 2, 2023 at 3:58 PM PDT
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Treasury Undersecretary Jay Shambaugh met on Friday with China’s new ambassador to the United States, Xie Feng, holding a discussion aimed at maintaining open communications between the world’s two largest economies, the Treasury said.
“The meeting was candid, constructive, and part of ongoing efforts to maintain open lines of communication and responsibly manage our bilateral relationship,” the Treasury said in a statement.
Last week, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo met separately with Chinese Commerce Minister Wang Wentao, with both sides trading objections about each other’s trade, investment and export policies.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has expressed hopes for a visit to China this year to meet with her new counterpart, Vice Premier He Lifeng.
In April, Yellen gave a lengthy address laying out the Biden administration’s objectives for a “constructive and fair” economic relationship with Beijing, saying she wanted to “cut through the noise” and responsibly manage the relationship.