In the span of just a few days, a high-level summit between Washington and Beijing in far-flung Anchorage, Alaska is about to kick off Thursday and continue through Friday. And as the world waits to see whether the fate of Taiwan will factor into the discussions, the Wall Street Journal has returned with some more details about Beijing's agenda.
Per the report, the two lead Chinese delegates (Yang Jiechi, a member of the Communist Party ruling body, and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, China's top-ranking diplomat) plan to urge Secretary of State Antony Blinken and national security adviser Jake Sullivan to drop sanctions and restrictions on Chinese entities and individuals put in place by the Trump administration. Ransquawk described the meeting as "the first significant engagement" between the world's two largest economies, and arguably, the world's only two contemporary superpowers since President Trump left office. Depending on the outcome, the meeting could set the tone for bilateral relations for years to come.
So far, Biden and his team have tried to maintain a tough-on-China stance, pledging to leave Trump's tariffs and other punitive measures, like keeping Huawei on the Entities List, in place.
US officials reportedly told WSJ that hot-potato topics like Beijing's move to crush democratic freedoms in Hong Kong, and its aggressive policing of the South China Seat will factor in to the discussion. However, every time the US has expressed concerns about China's increasingly aggressive military posture toward Taiwan, Beijing has replied by sharply insisting that Washington not meddle in China's domestic affairs.
Blinken used a trip to Japan and South Korea this past week to blast Beijing's aggressive stance toward Taiwan. Politico mused in a headline that the two sides appeared headed for a "frosty" summit.
Beijing has gone so far as to obliquely threaten the US with military retaliation if it continues to back Taiwan's domestic pro-independence politics.
WSJ noted that China is coming to the meeting with a different agenda that bears little overlap with the Biden Administration's preferred talking points. Though the Chinese officials are reportedly planning to propose that high-level meetings between the two governments be re-established.
Chinese officials reportedly started laying the groundwork for the summit late last year. Chinese sources reportedly told WSJ that "the US side proposed to hold this high-level strategic dialogue, which we think is meaningful...and..."we hope that the two sides can have a candid dialogue on issues of mutual concern."
Beijing is expected to propose a virtual climate summit set for April 22 to schedule a meeting between President Biden and President Xi. The two leaders, who have known each other for years, have spoken only once by phone since Biden took office.
In summary, few expect the two sides to accomplish much more than an initial sizing up of the competition. Biden is preparing to convene a "quad" summit with several of China's other recent adversaries like Japan and Australia. With all this in mind, Ransquawk speculated the focus will be on the tone of the meeting and how diverged /converged each other’s views are, as the focus shifts toward what might be accomplished during future rounds of talks.