Prof. ST Hsieh
Director, US-China Energy Industry Forum
May 11, 2023
It is good news that the US and China have committed to a new high-level strategic communication channel as Sullivan and Wang “agreed to continue to make good use of this strategic channel for communication.”
But it is notable that the US-China relation is still fragile:
- The meeting was held in Vienna but not in the US and/or China.
- The meeting was announced to the public after the meeting.
- The switching from “decoupling” to “de-risking” is a softening gesture from the west.
- The only one real bilateral issue that both the US and China can focus on is the war in Ukraine. It is time to end the war and only China has initiated a peace process. If the US and China reach an understanding how the war could end, there is a chance. It will also enhance Biden’s reelection bid.
- For China, Taiwan is a core issue and untouchable. The challenge to Biden is that the administration has limited influence on congress and public messaging.
- On the meeting with China’s Defense Minister General Li Shangfu, the U.S. has said the sanctions will not prevent U.S. officials from meeting him. But any Chinese Minister or General will take the US sanction as an insult and disgrace. He/she will have little incentive to meet with any US official.
Top US, China officials meet for ‘candid’ talks
Thu, May 11, 2023 at 10:49 AM PDT
US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and top Chinese diplomat Wang Yi met in Vienna this week, Washington and Beijing announced Thursday as the two powers seek to maintain communication amid soaring tensions, especially over Taiwan.
Both sides described the previously unannounced meeting in carefully choreographed statements as “candid, substantive and constructive,” mirroring one another’s language in the tentative, high-level rapprochement.
Topics discussed included the Russian invasion of Ukraine and “cross-Strait issues,” according to the White House, referring to Taiwan — two of the most sensitive subjects in their frosty relationship.
Wang “comprehensively expounded upon China’s solemn position” on Taiwan, Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua said, adding the two diplomats “agreed to continue to make good use of this strategic channel for communication.”
Washington and Beijing’s historically strained relationship has tightened further in recent months as the United States has sought bulwarks against China’s increasingly assertive position on the world stage.
But the apparent diplomatic thaw in Vienna is likely to reignite speculation about a potential meeting between Biden and Xi. Asked about the issue Wednesday, Biden said there had been progress.
– It takes two –
Biden has said he will not do China any favors in the competition between the two superpowers, but has vowed he would do everything possible to avoid that rivalry descending into conflict.
Washington hopes to send a high-level economic delegation to China, led by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, though no firm dates have been set yet.
Sullivan, in a major speech on April 27, outlined the US strategy to build a “fairer, more durable global economic order” — and singled China out for mention.
Echoing a phrase coined by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, he said US intentions were “for de-risking and diversifying, not decoupling.“
“We’re looking to manage competition responsibly and seeking to work together with China where we can,” he said.
Senior Chinese, US officials talk over bilateral ties
Xinhua | Updated: 2023-05-11 22:15
VIENNA – Wang Yi, director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan had candid, in-depth, substantive and constructive discussions on bilateral ties here on Wednesday and Thursday.
The two sides held discussions on removing obstacles in China-US relations and stabilizing the relationship from deterioration.
Both sides agreed to continue to make good use of this strategic communication channel.
Sullivan meets with China’s top diplomat as U.S. seeks to reopen communication
Why it matters:Lines of communication between Washington and Beijing, particularly around defense issues, were largely severed after the U.S. shot down what officials said was a Chinese spy balloon in February.
What they’re saying: “The two sides had candid, substantive, and constructive discussions on key issues in the U.S.-China bilateral relationship, global and regional security issues, Russia’s war against Ukraine, and cross-Strait issues, among other topics,” the White House said in a readout.
- “This meeting was part of ongoing efforts to maintain open lines of communication and responsibly manage competition,” the readout added.
- “The two sides agreed to maintain this important strategic channel of communication to advance these objectives, building on the engagement between President Biden and President Xi [Jinping] in Bali, Indonesia, in November 2022.”
- Chinese state news agency Xinhua reported that the two officials also “exchanged views” on the situation in the Asia-Pacific, Ukraine and “other international and regional issues of common concern.”
The big picture:The readout of the Sullivan-Yi meeting made no mention of the status of the two countries’ military-to-military communications.
- Austin is expected to travel next month to Singapore to participate in the Shangri-la Dialogue organized by the Institute for International Security Studies (IINSS), a source with direct knowledge said.
- The source said the Chinese defense minister is also expected to attend,
- Neither Li nor Austin’s participation has been publicly announced.
State of play:A U.S. official said the Pentagon is still in the planning process of Austin’s trip but stressed the Biden administration has been very clear about its intent to increase communication” with China “at all levels.”
- Li was sanctioned by the U.S. in 2018 over Russian arms purchases. The U.S. has said the sanctions will not prevent U.S. officials from meeting him.