China’s top diplomat Wang Yi called for “in-depth” and “comprehensive” dialogue between Beijing and Washington ahead of a likely meeting with US President Joe Biden on Friday.
Wang, who is in the US until Saturday, is set to meet Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, at the White House. He could see Biden in person at that time, a US official familiar with planning for the visit said.
It is unclear how substantial their interaction will be.
Nevertheless, even an informal greeting with Wang would be Biden’s senior-most interaction with the Chinese government since he briefly met Chinese President Xi Jinping’s second-in-line, Premier Li Qiang, on the sidelines of the G20 summit in New Delhi.
Wang is the top foreign affairs official in the Chinese Communist Party and also foreign minister since the dismissal of Qin Gang in July. His trip to the US comes in the middle of a bitter technology and trade war between the biggest economies of the world.
Biden said during a press conference on Wednesday he plans to “compete” with China “according to the international rules – economically, politically, and other ways – but I’m not looking for conflict.”
For his part, Xi also said on Wednesday that China was willing to cooperate with the United States.
Appeal for dialogue
On Thursday, Wang met US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, kicking off his long-anticipated visit.
The trip is being as a run-up to a long-sought, one-on-one meeting between Biden and Xi at November’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in San Francisco. The two leaders last met at a summit in Bali last November.
Standing next to Blinken, Wang said the two countries share important common interests and challenges that they need to resolve together.
“Therefore, China and the United States need to have dialogue. Not only should we resume dialogue, the dialogue should be in-depth and comprehensive,” Wang said, speaking through an interpreter.
“Dialogue would help reduce misunderstandings, help stabilise the relationship and return it to the track of healthy, stable and sustainable development,” he said.
Blinken responded: “I agree with what the foreign minister said.”
Israel-Hamas war to influence talks
Wang’s three-day visit is the latest in a flurry of diplomatic engagements between the two strategic rivals as they seek to manage their differences to avoid conflict.
Several top US officials including Blinken have since met their Chinese counterparts in Beijing this summer.
The Israel-Hamas conflict has added a fresh dynamic to the testy relationship of the superpowers, and Washington is hoping Beijing can use its influence with Iran to prevent an escalation into a wider war in the Middle East.
But the Biden administration’s priority with Beijing has been to prevent intense competition between the two largest economies and disagreements on a host of issues from veering into conflict.
While both Beijing and Washington have spoken of looking for areas where they can work together, experts do not expect immediate progress.
The two sides are also likely go into APEC from different economic perspectives, with economic policy analysts saying the US has weathered challenging global conditions after the Covid-19 pandemic somewhat better than China.
- Reuters, with additional editing by Vishakha Saxena