Thu, 09 Dec 2021

Zurich US-China meeting displays relaxed senior officials

Robert Besser
12 Oct 2021, 13:04 GMT+10

ZURICH, Switzerland: A six-hour meeting between White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan and his Chinese counterpart, Yang Jiechi, in Zurich has helped loosen tensions in the relationship between the U.S. and China, the most promising moment since President Joe Biden entered office.

The meeting, which the White House considers a win and "model" for future talks, highlighted the serious tensions between the two superpowers, and is a precursor to future talks that include a virtual summit between Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping, to be held by the end of the year.

It was also the most senior-level meeting between officials from the two countries since the now-infamous Alaska summit in March, which devolved into a verbal sparring match.

According to a senior Biden official who briefed reporters, Sullivan and Yang met last week on Wednesday after Presidents Biden and Xi agreed, during a phone call last month, on the importance of having direct lines of communication.

The official noted that Wednesday's meeting was "probably the most in-depth conversation" between the two governments since Biden took office and had a "different tone than Anchorage."

The official also described the meeting as key to establishing the "foundation" of avoiding miscalculations that could cause "intense competition."

However, when asked, the official could not name a current example of the U.S. and China working together productively.

During Wednesday's meeting, Sullivan affirmed the U.S. position on climate change, which stresses that cooperation must be separate from other issues, such as the treatment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang.

Other issues could also potentially strain U.S.-China relations, most notably Taiwan, whose defense minister today warned that military tensions with Beijing are at their lowest in four decades, after a record 148 Chinese warplanes flew near the island's airspace over four days.

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