The U.S. and China have agreed to work together toward an expected summit between presidents Joe Biden and Xi Jinping next month, U.S. officials said on Friday, following hours of meetings between Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi and senior U.S. diplomats in Washington.
In the first visit by a Chinese foreign minister to Washington since 2018, veteran diplomat Wang Yi also met Biden for an hour, talks that the White House described as a “good opportunity” in keeping lines of communication open between the two geopolitical rivals with deep policy differences.
Wang’s meetings with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. national security advisor Jake Sullivan spanning over two days totaled nine hours, U.S. officials said, describing these interactions as “candid and in-depth”.
Biden’s top aides raised Washington’s key concerns: the need to restore military-to-military channels between the two countries, Beijing’s actions in the East and South China Sea, Taiwan, human rights, the flow of fentanyl precursors and the cases of Americans detained in China, U.S. officials said.
There were also “frank exchanges” between Blinken and Wang over the erupting conflict in the Middle East.
The key area that appeared to show some positive momentum was toward an expected meeting between Biden and Xi on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit next month in San Francisco.
“We are making preparations for such a meeting,” said one of the senior administration officials briefing reporters on condition of anonymity. “Obviously, Chinese leaders often confirm publicly much closer to a trip, so I will leave it to the Chinese side to figure out if and when they make that announcement,” the official said.
Wang told Biden that the objective of his visit was to help “stem the decline” in U.S.-China ties “with an eye on San Francisco”, without giving any details, according to a brief statement from the Chinese foreign ministry.
The foreign ministry readouts for Wang’s meetings with Blinken and Sullivan said that “both sides agreed to work together to achieve a meeting between the two heads of state in San Francisco.”
“China attaches importance to the U.S. side’s hopes of stabilizing and improving U.S. ties with China,” Wang was quoted as saying in his meeting with Biden.
The Biden administration has seen direct leader-level engagement with Xi as particularly important in managing tensions as it seeks to prevent relations from veering into conflict.
“A big part of a potential meeting would be the two leaders sitting down together and having those conversations on strategic intent,” the U.S. official said.