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US Deputy Secretary of State visits China… Fighting ahead of the first meeting in four months, will it be successful?

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman holds a joint press conference after consultations with South Korea, U.S. and Japanese vice foreign ministers at the Ikura Embassy in Tokyo, Japan, on the 21st. Tokyo|Yonhap News

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman will visit China on the 25th to meet Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Xe Feng and Wang Yi, State Councilor and Foreign Minister in charge of foreign affairs. This is the first face-to-face contact between diplomatic lines in about four months after the two countries clashed violently at a high-level meeting in Alaska, the United States in March. Although this meeting is regarded as a stepping stone leading to the meeting of the foreign ministers of the two countries and the summit, it is unclear whether concrete results will be achieved as the two sides are engaged in a fierce battle of nerves before the meeting.

A senior U.S. government official said at a telephone briefing on the 24th (local time), and Deputy Secretary Sherman visited China after a trip to Korea, Japan and Mongolia on the 25th. said to do Deputy Secretary of State Sherman is the highest-ranking person in the US government who has visited China since Joe Biden took office. On the 26th, it is reported that he will meet with Vice President Xe Feng and Director Wang Yi at the Binhai One Hotel in Tianjin to discuss various issues, including bilateral relations. However, the specific meeting schedule and agenda were not disclosed.

This meeting is the second meeting between high-ranking diplomatic officials, which took place in a situation where the two countries confirmed a clear difference in positions at the high-level meeting held in March for the first time since Biden’s inauguration and continued all-round conflict. It is expected to be a place to re-evaluate the direction of the Biden administration’s China policy and the future of US-China relations, six months after its inauguration. Therefore, the nerve war between the two countries preparing for this meeting is also tense. The meeting itself was difficult to achieve after experiencing a crisis of failure due to a struggle between the two sides over the counterpart.

A high-ranking US government official explained, “The main purpose of this summit is to exchange frank opinions on the relationship between the two countries,” adding, “The purpose is not to negotiate specifics, but to open high-level communication channels.” Emphasizing that this meeting is an extension of Shermyun’s visit to South Korea and Japan, he said, “We will attend this meeting with vigilance and represent the interests and values ​​of the United States and its allies and partners.” As at the Alaska summit, he said he would not hide the concerns of the United States and its allies over China’s actions.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.  Provided by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. Provided by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China

China’s attitude is tougher. At the summit, China expressed its firm attitude to safeguard its sovereignty, safety and development interests, and said it would demand an end to interference in internal affairs and violation of interests. “The United States has no right to preach or say this and that to China,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian. “This tactic did not work in Anchorage, and even more unlikely in Tianjin.” Director Wang Yi, who was involved in the dialogue, said, “The United States always tries to pressure other countries with its own strength and considers its own superiority.” “If the United States has not learned to live with other countries in an equal manner, we will have to take supplementary classes. I have a responsibility to do that.” The fact that China imposed sanctions on seven US officials by using the Anti-Foreign International Relations Act on the 23rd, just before the summit, for interfering in internal affairs on the Hong Kong issue, is also interpreted as showing its will not to be pushed back in this meeting.

Considering this situation alone, it seems highly likely that this meeting will end as an empty-handed meeting, just like the Alaska meeting, while only confirming each other’s positions. However, as the two sides made the summit difficult, it is expected that they will make minimal efforts to identify each other’s limits and find possible points of cooperation to prevent further deterioration of the relationship. “Deputy Secretary Sherman will emphasize that he does not want this intense and persistent competition to escalate into a clash,” a senior US official said. He also said that the summit will also discuss the global task of finding areas for potential cooperation. Climate change and North Korea are still cited as areas where the two countries can cooperate. The two sides left room for cooperation on these issues even in the fiercely clash of Anchorage talks.

Wendy Cutler, deputy director of the American Institute for Asian Policy Studies, said, “We need to lower our expectations for this summit, but it will be an important first step in terms of resuming high-level dialogue and laying the groundwork for the summit ahead of the G20 meeting this fall.” He told the China Morning Post. Taiwan Asia Exchange Foundation analyst Sana Hashimi told the Financial Times, “No matter how confident China may appear, it is concerned about the institutionalization of the ‘quad’ (USA, Japan, Australia, India).” predicted to be Saura Gupta, a research fellow at the China-American Institute in Washington, said, “The fact that this meeting is held after intense negotiations shows that both sides want to advance their relationship and resolve serious concerns.” “Both sides are trying to reassure the other by setting a line not to cross. So this conversation can be very productive.”

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