Former Asia Pacific Assistant Secretary Russell: Trying, Not Negotiating, in High-Level U.S.-China Meeting

The U.S. and China will meet in Alaska this week. Former State Department Assistant Secretary for Asia-Pacific Russell says such conversations are more frank than formal meetings and should be seen as the beginning of probing and seeking convergence, rather than negotiating solutions, since President Biden took office in January.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan are scheduled to meet with Yang Jiechi, director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, and State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Anchorage on April 18, the first face-to-face dialogue between the top brass of the two sides in many months when U.S.-China relations are at a deep low.

Daniel Russel, currently vice president of international security and diplomacy at the Asia Society’s Asian Society Policy Institute (ASPI), said in a written statement today that this was an opportunity for top U.S. and Chinese foreign policy officials to discuss their respective worldviews and priorities and to listen to each other.

We should view this meeting as a test exchange, not a negotiation to resolve an existing issue,” Russel said. The Anchorage meeting is likely to be an opportunity for the two sides to seek convergence and review their respective strategies, rather than to initiate any kind of structured bilateral dialogue.”

Senior U.S. officials said last week that the high-level U.S.-China meeting will touch on issues where the two sides disagree, including 2019 coronavirus disease (Chinese communist virus, COVID-19, Wuhan pneumonia), climate change and Beijing‘s governance of Hong Kong and pressure on Taiwan, and that the U.S. side will also mention China’s actions undermining U.S. labor and farmers’ rights, theft of intellectual property, forced technology transfer and human rights.

Russell, who has experience with the Chinese side, said that when the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) was held in Washington under former President Barack Obama, the secretary of state and the White House national security adviser would usually have an informal dinner with top Chinese representatives the day before the opening. This dialogue is more straightforward and frank, and more useful than reading from a book during a formal delegation meeting.

Russell said Blinken’s close relationship with Sullivan and Biden gives him authority and his experience working closely with them prevents the Chinese from “forum shopping” between the State Department and the White House.

Before going to Anchorage, Blinken will visit Japan and South Korea with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. Biden participated in the first summit of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) between the United States, Japan, India and Australia via video only last week.

The New York Times reports that Biden’s diplomatic moves have two core goals: to rebuild relations with frustrated allies and to build a united front against the Chinese Communist Party.

Former President Trump has shown a transactional style toward allies in the Asia-Pacific region and a conflicting attitude toward the Chinese Communist Party. While Trump has flattered Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping in search of trade deals, the administration has criticized Beijing for human rights abuses, military and cyber advances and attacks on democracy.

The Biden Administration‘s strategy toward China may be equally confusing, the paper wrote. Blinken has described the sought-after U.S.-China relationship as both cooperative and competitive, confronting the Chinese Communist Party when necessary. To achieve its goals, the United States is counting on the support of allies such as Japan and South Korea. Both Japan and South Korea depend on trade with China for their economic prosperity, but have divergent positions with China on security, democracy and human rights issues.

The Chinese Communist Party leadership, for its part, has expressed a desire to improve relations with the United States. Some observers warn that the U.S. and China will eventually tear apart, and that easing tensions now will only buy Time for the Chinese Communist Party to increase its technological and military power.

Wang Yi mentioned the fight against 2019 coronavirus disease, post-Epidemic economic recovery and climate change as areas where China and the United States could cooperate at a press conference in Beijing on July 7. The company’s main goal is to provide the best possible service to its customers.

A few days later, the USS John Finn, a U.S. destroyer, passed through the Taiwan Strait. The newspaper wrote that the U.S. side described the passage of warships through the Taiwan Strait as routine. This is the third time since Biden took office that a U.S. ship has passed through the Taiwan Strait, showing support for Taiwan.