In the first high-level personal engagement between the United States and China following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, US National Security Adviser and one of President Joe Biden’s closest aides, Jake Sullivan, will meet with Yang Jiechi, a member of the Politburo of the Chinese Communist. Party and director of the Foreign Affairs Office in Rome on Monday.
A statement issued by the National Security Council said this was “part of our ongoing efforts to maintain open lines of communication” between the two sides. “The two sides will discuss ongoing efforts to steer competition between our two countries and discuss the impact of Russia’s war on Ukraine on regional and global security.”
In the wake of the Ukraine crisis, US Secretary of State Antony J Blinken has been in contact with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi. Last week, Blinken said he had told Wang that China, as a country that often speaks of the sanctity of the principle of sovereignty, should “stand up and have its voice heard.” “I spent an hour on the phone with my colleague the other day … We would expect China, based on everything that has been said in the past, to stand up and make its voice heard. Its voice is very important in this … So we look to China to make its voice heard. That vote counts, and I hope they will. “
The meeting comes at a time when there are two parallel trends in the US-China dynamics in Ukraine. On the one hand, the United States believes that while China remains in line with Russia, Beijing is uncomfortable with the invasion and the implications – and this opens a window to use Beijing’s influence with Moscow to influence Vladimir Putin. This has led to speculation among members of the strategic community in Washington that there could be a reshuffle in US-China ties, although US officials continue to emphasize their commitment to the Indo-Pacific and their recognition of China as America’s leading competitor. and opponent.
On the other hand, the United States continues to monitor China’s support for Russia. Beijing has opposed the unprecedented US sanctions, pointed to the need to address Russia’s security interests and sided with Russia at the last meeting of the UN Security Council, where both countries accused the US of having secret biological weapons laboratories in Ukraine – an indictment. which the United States strongly rejected and claimed could be a prelude to Russia’s use of chemical weapons in Ukraine.
The assessment of China – as both a challenger but also as uncomfortable with the current situation – emerged in two publicly available intelligence assessments last week. In a testimony to a permanently selected Intelligence Committee in Parliament last week when asked about the link between China and Russia, CIA Director William J Burns said the partnership between the two countries had been strengthened in recent years. He added that China valued its relations with Europe and valued “what they believed was their ability to drive a wedge between us and the Europeans”.
At the same time, in the annual threat assessment of the American intelligence community, published on March 8, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence called China a “near-peer competitor challenging the United States in several arenas – especially economic, military and technological.” and said China “pushed on to change global standards and potentially threatened its neighbors.” On Sunday, Sullivan said in an interview with CNN that the United States believed that before the invasion, China was aware that “Putin was planning something” but may not be aware of the “full extent” of Russia’s plans.