(CapitalWatch, Oct. 5, New York) Top diplomats from Washington and Beijing are to meet on neutral territory Wednesday to discuss pressing issues as tensions between the two largest economies have worsened.
National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne said in a statement on Tuesday that the meeting in Zurich, Switzerland, is a follow-on of President Biden's Sept. 9 call with President Xi as the two nations seek ways "to responsibly manage the competition between the United States and the People's Republic of China."
Biden's national security advisor Jake Sullivan will meet with Jiechi Yang, director of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission Office and former Chinese ambassador. That will be the first meeting for China's top diplomats since their spiteful March talk in Alaska and end the half-year freeze, according to Reuters. And while representatives on both sides have called for dialogue and "frank conversations," it does not seem likely that either Sullivan or Yang are ready to soften up and yield on key points.
For one, the trade war being a key point, Washington has relayed that it wants China to uphold to its trade commitments – and so far, China failed last year and is falling short this year on its U.S. purchases, according to The New York Times citing Chad P. Bown at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. The Biden administration also said that the tariffs on Chinese imports, amplified by his predecessor Trump, will for now stay in place despite their negative impact on some U.S. businesses and consumers.
Another of the pressing issues likely to be discussed is the question of Taiwan. In mid-September, President Biden announced AUKUS, the landmark defense act under which the U.S. will deliver bombers, advanced missiles, and nuclear-powered submarines to Australia. The deal, snatched from France, will allow the U.S. to act quicker in Asia, where China is now the powerhouse and appears to be ready to attack Taiwan. The NYT reports, however, that the AUKUS deal may play out unexpectedly and negatively affect the balance of power in the decade it will take for Australia to launch its submarine fleet.
On its side, China continues to relay the message that it will not back down on its interests. Beijing has denounced the AUKUS deal, saying the allies should "shake off their Cold-War mentality and ideological prejudice." China had also explained its military buildup and show of force in Taiwan as strengthening ties.
China's state-run news agency Xinhua on Monday quoted Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying urging the U.S. to stop its support of Taiwan's "separatist forces" and "provocative moves" in the Taiwan Strait as "Taiwan belongs to China."