U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping may hold bilateral talks in the spring — a sign of ongoing efforts to keep tensions between the two global superpowers at bay.
The news came after Washington’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan and Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi held “candid, substantive and constructive discussions” in Bangkok on a series of regional and international issues, the White House said.
While channels of communication between the two countries have largely been restored following months of tensions, several contentious issues remain, including the question of Taiwan’s sovereignty, Washington’s “technological blockade” against Beijing, and China’s role in the Red Sea conflict.
US may overestimate Beijing’s ability to minimize tensions in the Red Sea
During the Bangkok talks, the U.S. urged Beijing to use “its substantial leverage” with Iran to end the Houthi attacks in the Red Sea that have upended global shipping, with one U.S. official expressing doubt that Beijing is reportedly pushing Tehran to restrain the Houthis or risk hurting their trading relations. But “counting on China to pressure Iran to stop Houthi attacks is an overly simplistic notion,” a Shanghai-based professor told Chinese-state owned tabloid Global Times, arguing that the militant group does not necessarily “follow Iran’s orders.” China has called for de-escalation in the Red Sea and has publicly slammed the U.S. and UK for launching retaliatory strikes against the Houthis in Yemen. After being envious of China’s influence in the Middle East, the U.S. is now seeking its help to resolve the Red Sea Crisis, the professor told the Global Times, adding that the U.S. needs to “recognize the imperative nature of cooperating with China on Middle East issues.”
China sent military vessels past Taiwan’s median line during the Bangkok talks
As China’s foreign minister reiterated that Taiwan remains the “biggest challenge” in U.S.-China relations, Beijing sent more than 30 planes and six naval ships toward the territory which it claims as its own over the weekend — with nearly half of the warplanes crossing an unofficial median line between Taipei and the mainland, Taiwan’s defense ministry said. If the two leaders speak in the spring, it will be their first talks since Taiwan elected a president who Xi has called “a separatist.” During their in-person meeting last November, the two leaders “largely repeated old talking points about Taiwan,” The New York Times reported.
China experts have suggested that the U.S. may jump to defend Taiwan, even if China doesn’t pursue a full-scale military invasion. A recently published report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies argued that the U.S. may intervene militarily in Taipei if China “quarantines” the territory by taking charge of its flow of goods, or if Beijing pursues a naval blockade.