Prof. ST Hsieh
Director, US-China Energy Industry Forum
March 13, 2022
It is always good that US and China hold high-level face to face meetings. Jake Sullivan and Yang Jiechi will meet on May 14, 2022, in Rome is significant as Ukraine war is still raging, even though direct cease-fire talks between Russia and Ukraine are ongoing.
Because the US-China relation is very tense and many important bilateral issues such as trades are not settled, each side will have specific talk points that are not overlapping. The outcomes of these high-level talks may not be very promising, in the sense that each side may just re-iterate existing positions, which are known before the current meeting, without any common ground. This meeting may look like just a prelude of the next meeting: no substance issues will be resolved and no new breakthroughs.
The sad reality is a deep mistrust between US and China, so each side takes the worst-case scenario as a starting point of any discussion. Further, with a strong defense mindset, no forward-looking ideas may be advanced.
The attached report from New York Times, detailed US officials are sure that Russia has asked China for help but declined to disclose any Chinese reactions. It appears that US has specific intelligence about Chinese reactions to keep pressure on Chinese. Chinese officially denied the US report about Russian request as expected. So unfortunately, it is another case of “he says” vs “she says!” But “when rubber hits the road” i.e., at the Sullivan-Yang meeting, US has to show concrete evidence on what the US “knows” for sure.
While the US administration announced the Sullivan-Yang meeting is focused on Ukraine war vs China-Russia interactions, Chinese official accounts are very different. Xinhua reported that “The key issue of this meeting is to implement the important consensus reached by the Chinese and U.S. heads of state in their virtual summit in November last year, according to Zhao.” The consensus reached by Biden and Xi last November had nothing to do with Ukraine war which started about two weeks ago.
China has an interest in Ukraine war, but it is not the top priority on current China agenda. The top agenda for China is to stabilize US-China relation, because US-China relation had been the global headline for the past six years. However, Ukraine war has limited Biden administration’s bandwidth on dealing with global issues, include finalizing a China strategy. The Ukraine war will last not long, and the world must deal with a post-war geopolitics especially energy security.
Russia Asked China for Military and Economic Aid for Ukraine War, U.S. Officials Say
New York Times
March 13, 2022 Edward Wong and Julian E. Barnes
WASHINGTON — Russia asked China to give it military equipment and support for the war in Ukraine after President Vladimir V. Putin began a full-scale invasion last month, according to U.S. officials.
Russia has also asked China for additional economic assistance, to help counteract the battering its economy has taken from broad sanctions imposed by the United States and European and Asian nations, according to an official.
American officials, determined to keep secret their means of collecting the intelligence on Russia’s requests, declined to describe further the kind of military weapons or aid that Moscow is seeking. The officials also declined to discuss any reaction by China to the requests.
President Xi Jinping of China has strengthened a partnership with Mr. Putin and has stood by him as Russia has stepped up its military campaign in Ukraine, destroying cities and killing hundreds or thousands of civilians. American officials are watching China closely to see whether it will act on any requests of aid from Russia. Jake Sullivan, the White House national security adviser, is scheduled to meet on Monday in Rome with Yang Jiechi, a member of the Chinese Communist Party’s elite Politburo and director of the party’s Central Foreign Affairs Commission.
Mr. Sullivan intends to warn Mr. Yang about any future Chinese efforts to bolster Russia in its war or undercut Ukraine, the United States and their partners.
“We are communicating directly, privately to Beijing that there will absolutely be consequences for large-scale sanctions evasion efforts or support to Russia to backfill them,” Mr. Sullivan said on CNN on Sunday.
“We will not allow that to go forward and allow there to be a lifeline to Russia from these economic sanctions from any country, anywhere in the world,” he said.
Mr. Sullivan did not make any explicit mention of potential military support from China, but other U.S. officials spoke about the request from Russia on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of diplomatic and intelligence matters.
Liu Pengyu, a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, said he had never heard of the request from Russia. “The current situation in Ukraine is indeed disconcerting,” he said, adding that Beijing wants to see a peaceful settlement. “The high priority now is to prevent the tense situation from escalating or even getting out of control.”
BBC, March 13, 2022
China’s aim is to stop war ‘getting out of control’ – embassy
Asked about media reports that Russia was asking China for military help, a spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in Washington says Beijing is focused on keeping the war in Ukraine from “getting out of control”.
Reuters quoted embassy spokesperson Liu Pengyu as saying that “the situation in Ukraine is indeed disconcerting”.
“The high priority now is to prevent the tense situation escalating or even getting out of control,” he said.
Earlier on Sunday, the Financial Times and a number of other media outlets reported that US officials believe Russia has requested Chinese military supplies to help with the war effort, as well as economic support.
When asked about the reports, the spokesperson said that he “never heard of that”.
US officials have warned that China would face consequences if it takes steps to help Russia evade sanctions.
China has so far publicly remained neutral in the conflict and refused to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Senior Chinese diplomat to meet U.S. national security advisor
(Xinhua) 08:06, March 14, 2022
BEIJING, March 13 (Xinhua) — Yang Jiechi, a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, will meet with U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan on Monday in Rome, capital of Italy, Chinese foreign ministry announced Sunday night.
Yang, also director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the CPC Central Committee, will exchange views with Sullivan on China-U.S. relations and international and regional issues of common concern, spokesperson Zhao Lijian said.
The key issue of this meeting is to implement the important consensus reached by the Chinese and U.S. heads of state in their virtual summit in November last year, according to Zhao.
The two sides have been in contact on the matter since late last year, stayed in communication about the meeting and set a time for the meeting according to their schedules, Zhao said.