Biden pushes for high-level meetings with Beijing officials

President Joe Biden is set to launch the next phase of his China policy with a push for high-level meetings with Beijing officials after five months of taking a hard line.

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

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

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

In the early months of his presidency, Biden stressed that he would take a patient approach to China as he focused on strengthening the United States domestically and cementing alliances.

The decision to dramatically ramp up engagement with China comes after Washington made major strides in addressing the Covid-19 pandemic and after months of talks with allies that resulted. Strict joint statements on Chinese behavior At the tops, including the G7.

The White House has also had initial internal discussions about sending Blinken or Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser, to China later this year, which could pave the way for Biden and Xi to hold a bilateral summit on the sidelines of the G20 leaders meeting in Rome. in October.

“The administration from the beginning planned the sequence of its policies according to [first] “Focus on revitalizing the United States, controlling the epidemic, and renewing our alliances and partnerships,” said Bonnie Glaser, a China expert at the German Marshall Fund.

“They now think it’s a good time to move on to engagement, although they probably won’t call it that, and start a dialogue with China.”

The move will draw criticism from hawks who have praised Biden for taking an unexpected move Strict attitude from Beijing. But it will be welcomed by the business community, which has expressed concern about the deterioration of relations.

The Blinkin Wang meeting will mark the first high-level participation since Blinken and Sullivan met their Alaskan counterparts in March. A US official said it would be an opportunity to continue talks on issues raised in Anchorage behind closed doors after a fiery public start.

At the end of that meeting, Blinken made it clear to China’s top foreign policy official, Yang Jiechi, that he was not willing to travel to China for follow-up discussions despite receiving an invitation.

It is unclear whether Beijing will agree to the meetings. The US official said China had not said whether it would host Sherman, who will be the only high-ranking Biden official to visit besides John Kerry, the climate negotiator who met his counterpart in Shanghai in April.

In light of the challenges facing the relationship, China continues to do so Ignore the Pentagon’s request For Lloyd Austin, Secretary of Defense, to speak to General Xu Qiliang, China’s most senior military officer. The Financial Times reported last month that China had rejected three requests to make a call. A US defense official said the situation had not changed.

The White House and State Department have not commented on the diplomatic engagement negotiations. But Sullivan suggested last week that Biden speak soon with Xi, following the US president’s Geneva summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Sullivan said Biden is committed to speaking with Xi to “assess” the relationship. “We are very committed to that. It is now just a question of when and how.

Follow Dimitri Sevastopoulo on Twitter

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