Biden promotes high-level meetings with Beijing officials

President Joe Biden will launch the next phase of his Chinese policy with a push for high-level meetings with Beijing officials after five months of pursuing a tough stance.

The United States and China are discussing a possible meeting between Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at a G20 meeting in Italy next week, three people reported on the talks.

The Biden administration has also told Beijing it would like to send Wendy Sherman, deputy secretary of state, to China over the summer.

The White House is also considering a call with Xi Jinping, which would be only Biden’s second engagement as U.S. president with his Chinese counterpart.

In the early months of his presidency, Biden stressed that he would take a patient approach toward China, as he focused on strengthening the U.S. nationwide and propping up alliances.

The decision to significantly intensify engagement with China comes after Washington took big steps to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic and after months of talks with allies that produced harsh joint statements about Chinese behavior at the summits, including the G7.

The White House has also held preliminary internal debates over sending National Security Adviser Blinken or Jake Sullivan to China later this year, which could set the stage for Biden and Xi to hold a bilateral summit in China. margins of the G20 leaders’ meeting in Rome. in October.

“From the beginning, the administration planned to sequence its policies [first] focus on revitalizing the U.S. and gaining control of the pandemic and rejuvenating our alliances and partnerships, ”said Bonnie Glaser, a Chinese expert on the German Marshall Fund.

“Now they think it’s time to resort to compromise, even though they probably won’t call it that, and start the dialogue with China.”

The move will provoke criticism from the hawks who had praised Biden for taking an unexpected tough stance to Beijing. But she will be well received by the business community, concerned about deteriorating relationships.

A Blinken-Wang meeting would mark the first top-level engagement since Blinken and Sullivan met their Alaska counterparts in March. A U.S. official said it would be an opportunity to continue talks on issues raised in Anchorage behind closed doors after a public outcry.

At the end of this meeting, Blinken made it clear to Yang Jiechi, the top Chinese foreign policy chief, that he was not prepared to travel to China to continue discussions, despite receiving an invitation.

It is unclear whether Beijing will accept the meetings. The U.S. official said China had not said whether it would host Sherman, who would be the only senior Biden official to visit other than John Kerry, the climate negotiator who met with his counterpart. in Shanghai in April.

Underlining the challenges of the relationship, China continues to do so ignores a request from the Pentagon for Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to speak with General Xu Qiliang, the top Chinese military officer. The Financial Times reported last month that China had rejected three call requests. A U.S. defense official said the situation had not changed.

The White House and the state department did not comment on the negotiations for diplomatic participation. But Sullivan last week suggested Biden would soon speak with Xi, following the U.S. president’s summit in Geneva with Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

Sullivan said Biden was committed to talking to Xi “to take stock” of the relationship. “We are very committed to this. Now it’s just a matter of when and how, ”he said.

Carry on Demetri Sevastopulo on Twitter

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