Oct 5, 2021 - World

Jake Sullivan to meet top Chinese diplomat as Taiwan tensions soar

Jake Sullivan

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan will travel to Zurich, Switzerland, this week to meet China's top foreign policy official Yang Jiechi, according to a National Security Council spokesperson.

Why it matters: It will be the most senior-level, in-person meeting between U.S. and Chinese officials since Sullivan and Secretary of State Antony Blinken met their counterparts in Alaska in March, where a post-summit press conference devolved into a verbal sparring match.

Driving the news: The meeting comes days after the State Department condemned the Chinese military's record number of incursions into Taiwan's air defense identification zone.

  • It will be the first in-person meeting since the U.S. announced a new Indo-Pacific security partnership with the U.K. and Australia, aggravating China.
  • The Biden administration also announced this week that China is not meeting its commitments under the Phase One trade deal and that it will keep Trump-era tariffs in place as the U.S. re-engages Beijing in trade talks.

The big picture: President Biden spoke directly with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Sept. 9 in an attempt to "set guardrails" on the relationship, after Chinese officials snubbed and insulted Biden's aides during lower-level talks — including climate envoy John Kerry.

  • One possible item on the agenda for Sullivan's talks with Yang could be a virtual summit between Biden and Xi.
  • Xi has not left China since the start of the pandemic, making an in-person meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Rome later this month unlikely.

Between the lines: Sullivan's meeting with Yang will be followed by visits with key U.S. allies, including NATO and EU officials in Brussels and French national security adviser Emmanuel Bonne in Paris.

Go deeper: Biden's Taiwan test

Go deeper