WASHINGTON — Following the Trump administration’s increasingly bitter relations with China over the past four years, senior Biden officials are in the process of setting the tone for a competitive coexistence with Beijing before a meeting with their Chinese counterparts in Alaska next Thursday.
“As far as China is concerned,” said national security adviser Jake Sullivan on Friday afternoon during the daily White House press briefing, the Biden administration “believes that we are going to end up in a stiff competition with China, and we intend to prevail in that competition.”
Sullivan and Secretary of State Antony Blinken are set to meet with China’s senior diplomat, Yang Jiechi, and Chinese State Councilor Wang Yi in Anchorage. Blinken had announced the meeting on Wednesday.
While Sullivan told journalists he did not expect the Trump-era trade deal with Beijing to come up during next week’s summit, he announced that he and Blinken will broadly communicate “how the U.S. intends to proceed at a strategic level.” He said they would also confront their Chinese counterparts directly on issues including the mass detention of Muslim Uighurs in the Xinjiang region, which Blinken declared amounts to genocide, and Beijing’s crackdown on activists in Hong Kong.
During a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing earlier this week, the first of Blinken’s tenure as America’s top diplomat, he testified that the summit will be a chance to frankly discuss “the concerns that we have,” though he and Sullivan will also aim to seek out “avenues of cooperation.” Follow-up meetings could include direct engagement on issues such as economic matters, Sullivan said, though neither he nor Blinken has suggested that any follow-up meetings are planned right now.
Sullivan said the U.S. is approaching the Anchorage meeting “from a position of strength” as a result of actions taken by the Biden administration so far, including the passage of the $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill, its vaccination efforts, its attempt to secure the supply chains through a recent executive order, its return to global institutions and its strong condemnation of the recent military coup in Myanmar.
“We are in a better position to deal with the challenges of China than the day [President Biden] took office,” said Sullivan.
Next week’s summit comes on the heels of Biden’s major virtual summit on Friday morning between members of "the Quad," which includes Australia, Japan and India. While the Quad has informally existed for more than a decade, Biden’s meeting is the first instance of the nation’s top leaders gathering to expressly commit to partnership and democratic leadership in the Indo-Pacific region.
Sullivan denied that the Quad is a “new NATO” and insisted that the summit’s main focus was not countering China, but rather an attempt to address major pressing global crises and regional issues, including the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change.
However, the group “did discuss the challenge posed by China,” said Sullivan, and he and Blinken will include the Quad’s concerns in their discussions next week in Alaska.
Finally, Sullivan noted, the U.S., Japan, India and Australia will partner on cybersecurity and supply chain threats in an emerging technology working group.
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