President Biden's National Security Adviser Holds Secret Meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister

Aiden Starling

Updated Monday, September 18, 2023 at 4:36 AM CDT

President Biden's National Security Adviser Holds Secret Meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister

President Joe Biden's national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, secretly met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Malta over the weekend. The purpose of the meeting was to maintain open lines of communication and manage the relationship between the US and China. The talks between Sullivan and Wang Yi could pave the way for a meeting between Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping, which is expected to take place in the fall.

The meeting between Biden and Xi aims to ease tensions between the two countries. The US administration has been preparing for a possible meeting in November around the APEC summit in San Francisco. Various economic and security issues are at stake in the US-China relations, including export controls, the war in Ukraine, and concerns over Taiwan. The Biden administration is concerned that a lack of communication could lead to unintended confrontation.

Biden and Xi have not spoken in nearly a year, with their last meeting taking place in November 2020. Biden referred to Xi as a "dictator" at a fundraising event in June and expressed disappointment that Xi did not attend the G20 summit in India. However, the recent high-level talks between the US and China, including Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo's visit to China last month, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen's trip to Beijing in July, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken's meetings with Xi and Wang Yi, indicate ongoing efforts to maintain communication and engagement.

Sullivan's meeting with Chinese officials in Malta followed these recent high-level talks. The discussions between Sullivan and Wang were described as candid, substantive, and constructive. The two officials spent about 12 hours together over two days, discussing various topics such as the relationship between the two countries, global and regional security issues, Russia's war in Ukraine, the Taiwan Strait, artificial intelligence, counternarcotic efforts, and the status of detained U.S. citizens in China.

Both sides committed to maintaining a strategic channel of communication and pursuing additional high-level engagement and consultations in key areas in the coming months. The meeting aimed to maintain the relationship between the US and China during a time of strained ties and mutual suspicion. Despite being trade partners, Washington and Beijing see themselves as competitors.

President Biden has been strengthening relations with Japan, South Korea, India, Vietnam, and others to counterbalance China's influence in the Pacific region. The Biden administration has also taken actions against China, including shooting down a Chinese spy balloon, accusing China of hacking Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo's emails, and restricting the export of advanced computer chips to China.

It is worth noting that the talks between Sullivan and Wang did not address the issue of Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu's whereabouts. Li has not been seen in public since August 29, and the former Chinese foreign minister, Qin Gang, was abruptly removed from his position in July after disappearing from public view. Biden's ambassador to Japan, Rahm Emanuel, referred to Li's situation using a quote from Shakespeare's Hamlet.

President Biden and other world leaders are currently attending the annual gathering of the U.N. General Assembly. Biden is scheduled to meet with leaders of five Central Asian nations. While Chinese President Xi has been courting those Central Asian countries and promising to build trade links and develop oil and gas sources, Sullivan emphasized that the meeting with Central Asian leaders is not aimed at countering Chinese influence. Xi did not attend the G20 summit and is not expected to be in New York for the General Assembly.

Finally, there are early signs that severed military communications between the US and China may start to be restored, indicating a potential thaw in the overall relationship.

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