Nov 17, 2021 - World

Biden team’s 4 priorities on China engagement

National security adviser Jake Sullivan is seen addressing reporters at the White House.
National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan. Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images

National security adviser Jake Sullivan said Tuesday the future of the U.S.-China relationship can best be categorized by placing future bilateral engagement into four "buckets."

Why it matters: President Biden held a 3.5-hour, late-night virtual meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday. Sullivan helped fill in the blanks with a public readout on the talks at the Brookings Institution.

  • Bucket No. 1: Working together on "urgent" issues in which U.S. and Chinese interests align, such as implementing the COP26 climate deal and vaccinating the world to end the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Bucket No. 2: Addressing challenges in which the U.S. and China have historically worked together and now face important tests, including Iran nuclear talks and North Korea's escalating missile tests.
  • Bucket No. 3: Improving direct communication to effectively "manage differences," including over Taiwan. Sullivan said Biden reminded Xi he voted for the Taiwan Relations Act as a senator in 1979, and deeply understands what U.S. law says about support for the island's self-defense.
  • Bucket No. 4: Resolving outstanding issues in the Phase One trade deal, while continuing to use "the full range of tools available to us" to confront China's unfair economic practices.

Sullivan also revealed Biden asked Xi to launch talks on "strategic stability," following growing concerns about China's rapid expansion of its nuclear arsenal.

  • "That is not the same as what we have in the Russian context with the formal strategic stability dialogue that is far more mature and has a much deeper history to it," Sullivan cautioned.
  • "There's less maturity to that in the U.S.-China relationship. But the two leaders did discuss these issues. And it is now incumbent on us to think about the most productive way to carry it forward from here."

Zoom out: Though officials stressed there were no "deliverables" from the meeting, the State Department did confirm to Axios the U.S. and China have agreed to to ease Trump-era visa restrictions for journalists on a reciprocal basis.

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