U.S., Chinese high-level officials to meet Oct. 6 in Switzerland – The Foreigners magazine In tokyo
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U.S., Chinese high-level officials to meet Oct. 6 in Switzerland

Written by on October 6, 2021

U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan will meet China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi in Switzerland on Wednesday, the White House said, calling the move a part of efforts to “responsibly manage the competition” between the world’s two largest economies.

The meeting in Zurich follows a phone conversation in early September between U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping, during which they discussed the need to ensure competition does not veer into conflict amid their increasing rivalry.

Combined photo shows U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan (L) and China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi. (Kyodo)

Sullivan and Yang will “follow up” on the Sept. 9 call between the two countries’ leaders, the White House said in a statement on Tuesday.

“We will continue to seek to responsibly manage the competition between the U.S. and the PRC, and that’s what this meeting is about,” Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters, using the acronym of the People’s Republic of China.

The South China Morning Post, which reported about the meeting on Tuesday, quoted a person familiar with the arrangements as saying, “It can be seen as a meeting in which the two sides attempt to rebuild communication channels and implement the consensus reached between the two leaders.”

According to the White House, Sullivan will be traveling to Switzerland as part of his trip to Europe, which will also take him to Belgium and France.

In March, Sullivan and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Yang and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Alaska, marking the first high-level in-person contact between the two countries under Biden’s presidency.

 Then U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (L) is escorted by his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping during a welcoming ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Aug. 18, 2011. (Kyodo)

At the time, the top diplomats engaged in rare sparring in front of TV cameras over their differing visions for the international order and their respective positions on human rights and democracy issues, among other topics.

The Financial Times reported Tuesday that the high-level meeting will include negotiations about a possible virtual summit between Biden and Xi.

According to the newspaper, Biden, during his phone conversation with Xi last month, suggested that they hold an in-person summit, but Xi did not respond and urged the United States to tone down its anti-China rhetoric.

A virtual summit might be a possible compromise, given that Xi has not left China since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, The Financial Times said, quoting people familiar with the Biden-Xi call.

Bloomberg reported that Chinese diplomats have informed officials from the Group of 20 nations that Xi does not currently plan to attend a two-day summit in Italy starting Oct. 30 in person.

Chinese envoys cited China’s coronavirus protocols, which can include quarantine mandates for returning travelers, as a reason Xi did not intend to go to Rome, according to the news agency.

Sullivan had suggested in June the possibility of a bilateral meeting between the two leaders on the sidelines of the G-20 summit, saying that both Biden and Xi were “likely” to attend the event.

The G-20 consists of Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Britain, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

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