ZURICH – In view of the increasing tensions between the world powers, President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping are expected to hold a virtual meeting before the end of the year, according to the White House.
The agreement in principle on the talks was announced after White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and senior Chinese foreign policy advisor Yang Jiechi met for six hours in Zurich on Wednesday.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the two sides are still working on what the virtual meeting “would look like”.
Xi has not left China during the coronavirus pandemic and is not expected to attend in person at the upcoming Group of 20 summit in Rome and a UN climate change conference in Scotland.
A White House statement At the Swiss meeting, Sullivan emphasized the need to maintain open lines of communication with Yang while voicing concerns about China’s recent military provocations against Taiwan, human rights violations against ethnic minorities, and Beijing’s efforts to suppress pro-democracy supporters in Hong Kong.
Sullivan made it clear that while the United States would “continue to invest in our own national strength,” it would seek greater leadership engagement “to ensure fair competition,” the statement said.
US officials have expressed frustration that interactions with senior Chinese counterparts, including Yang, were less than constructive in the early stages of Biden’s presidency. But Wednesday’s talks have been described as respectful, constructive and perhaps the most intense between the sides since Biden took office in January, according to the administrator.
China’s official Xinhua news agency repeated the description, saying the two sides had an open and thorough exchange of views. It quoted Yang as saying, “China attaches importance to US President Joe Biden’s positive remarks on China-US relations, and China noted that the US side said it was … not a new cold Strives for war. “
Yang added, however, that China refuses to define the relationship as “competitive,” and urged the US to stop using Taiwan, Hong Kong, human rights and other issues to interfere in China’s internal affairs.
The White House said the meeting should serve as a follow-up to the call between Biden and Xi last month in which Biden emphasized the need to set clear parameters in their competition.
Nonetheless, the US-China relationship has come under pressure, compounded recently by dozens of Chinese military operations near the self-governing island of Taiwan, which Beijing considers part of its territory.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday reiterated his concern that Beijing’s “provocative” action is undermining peace and stability in the region. On Monday alone, China sent a record of 56 fighter jets to Taiwan.
“We urge Beijing to end its military, diplomatic and economic pressure and coercion against Taiwan,” said Blinken, who was in Paris for talks with French officials.
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At the beginning of Biden’s presidency, he promised to suppress Beijing because of its human rights record. His administration has reaffirmed the US position, taken late in the Trump administration, that China’s repression against Uyghur Muslims and other minorities in its northwestern region of Xinjiang is “genocide”.
In March, the United States, in coordination with the European Union, the United Kingdom and Canada, imposed sanctions on Communist Party leaders for their role in the detention and abuse of Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities. At the Group of Seven summit in England in June, Biden successfully urged his counterparts to include specific language criticizing China’s use of forced labor and other human rights abuses in the joint statement by leaders.
US human rights lawyers and Republican lawmakers have raised concerns that the government may ease pressure on human rights as it seeks to work together with Beijing on global climate change efforts and the foiling of North Korea’s nuclear program.
The White House said last week it had no position on the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which was passed by the US Senate in July.
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican and a legislature sponsor, wrote in the Washington Examiner on Wednesday that “the Biden government decides to ignore the outrageous human rights violations of the Chinese Communist Party in order to reach an agreement on the climate”.
Psaki resisted the criticism. She claimed that, unlike President Donald Trump, Biden “spoke out against human rights violations, raised concerns about human rights violations directly to President Xi, and we have done so at all levels”.
The US signaled this week that it intends to hold on to the tariffs imposed on China during the Trump administration for the time being.
U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai said in a speech in Washington this week that she would begin mandating her Chinese counterparts to discuss Beijing’s failure to meet commitments made in the first phase of a U.S.-China trade agreement signed in January 2020. Biden has criticized Beijing for “forced” trade practices, including the use of forced labor, which have resulted in unfair competitive conditions.
“We will use the full range of tools available to us and develop new tools as needed to protect American business interests from harmful policies and practices,” said Tai.