President Joe Biden's national security adviser met with China's foreign minister over the past two days on the Mediterranean island nation of Malta in an effort that the White House said Sunday was intended to “responsibly maintain the relationship” at a time of strained ties and mutual suspicion between the rival powers.
The White House said in a statement that Jake Sullivan and Chinese envoy Wang Yi had “candid, substantive and constructive discussions” as the world's two largest economies try “to maintain open lines of communication.”
Washington and Beijing see themselves as competitors despite an extensive trade partnership. President Joe Biden recently spoke with Chinese Premier Li Qiang while in India at the Group of 20 summit and told reporters afterward that they had talked about “stability” and “it wasn't confrontational at all.”
Biden has worked to strengthen relations with Japan, South Korea, India, Vietnam and others to counterbalance China's influence across the Pacific Region. Yet Biden said last Sunday at a news conference in the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi that those alliances are not about a “cold war” with China.
“It’s not about containing China,” he said. “It’s about having a stable base" for global economic growth.
Yet the relationship is full of competing pressures.
The Biden administration shot down what was described as a Chinese spy balloon earlier this year. The Chinese government hacked the emails of Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo. The U.S. government has restricted the exporting of advanced computer chips to China. And after Chinese President Xi Jinping centralized his power, the Chinese economy has not rebounded as expected after ending its pandemic lockdowns.
The White House said Sullivan and Wang discussed the relationship between the two countries, global and regional security issues, Russia's war in Ukraine and the Taiwan Strait.
“The United States noted the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. The two sides committed to maintain this strategic channel of communication and to pursue additional high-level engagement and consultations in key areas between the United States and the People’s Republic of China in the coming months,” according to the statement.
Sullivan also met with Malta's prime minister, Robert Abela. They talked about the Mediterranean region's role in helping to provide “global peace and security,” according to a statement by the Maltese government.
Madhani reported from Washington.