Top U.S. and Chinese officials will hold two days of talks next week in Alaska, the first in-person meeting between senior representatives of the two countries since President Biden took office, a senior administration official said.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken and national security adviser Jake Sullivan will meet with Yang Jiechi, a member of the Politburo, the Communist Party’s top decision-making body, and Wang Yi, the foreign minister, in Anchorage on Thursday and Friday, the official said. The Chinese have sought a meeting between Mr. Yang and Biden officials since December.
“The goal will be to compare notes on what each of our hopes and plans are for domestic politics, what our goals are internationally, regionally and globally,” the official said. Topics will include the Covid-19 pandemic, climate change, and issues of disagreement including China’s stance on Hong Kong and pressure on Taiwan, and the “undeclared economic embargoes” China has placed on Australia, the official said.
The meeting will follow a virtual meeting President Biden will host Friday with other leaders of the so-called Quad, a strategic group seen as a bulwark against Chinese expansionism that includes Australia, Japan and India.
Mr. Biden has stressed the importance of working with allies on a range of military, technology, trade and human-rights issues involving China.
Friday’s Quad meeting will focus on issues including technology, but a centerpiece will be reaching agreement to greatly increase Covid-19 vaccine production capacity in India, the Biden administration official said.
Mr. Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin are set to visit Japan and South Korea next week, marking the first foreign visits by cabinet secretaries in the Biden administration and showing the emphasis they place on the Asia-Pacific and China.
Their visit follows agreements the administration struck with Tokyo and Seoul on the basing of U.S. troops. Japan, in particular, has made it a foreign-policy priority to be seen as Washington’s top ally in Asia, and has lobbied over the years for its leader to meet with a new American president before a U.S.-China leaders session.
Asian nations are also wary of getting caught in the middle of a battle between China, a major investor and market for their goods, and the U.S., for whom they rely on for security. The U.S., for instance, has offered rhetorical support for Australia, which has seen China cut off imports of Australian coal, wine and other goods over Canberra’s call for an independent investigation of how China handled the emergence of the coronavirus.
Beijing has lobbied the Biden administration for early face-to-face discussions to try to smooth out relations that have grown sharply more confrontational in recent years.
The administration has said it wants to find areas of cooperation with Beijing while maintaining a hard-nosed approach on trade, technology, security and other issues.
Washington and Beijing are to co-chair a G-20 study group focusing on climate-related financial risks. The U.S. hasn’t named its representative but for the Chinese it will be Ma Jun, a World Bank veteran and former chief economist at the People’s Bank of China who is an expert on environmentally sustainable finance.
As he put his foreign policy together, Mr. Biden waited weeks after taking office to hold a call with Chinese leader Xi Jinping. The Feb. 10 conversation lasted two hours, the White House said, and covered topics from trade, climate and Covid-19 to human rights and regional security.
“I told him I will work with China when it benefits the American people,” Mr. Biden tweeted afterward. Mr. Xi also pledged cooperation and told his counterpart a confrontation between the two powers would be a disaster, according to Chinese media.