The Corner

White House

How Biden Will Pivot to Engaging China

President Joe Biden holds a news conference at the end of the G7 summit at Cornwall Airport Newquay, England, June 13, 2021. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

The Financial Times reports that the Biden administration might be pivoting from the initial phase of its policy toward China in a series of potential meetings between top officials and their Chinese counterparts:

The US and China are discussing a possible meeting between Antony Blinken, secretary of state, and Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi at a G20 meeting in Italy next week, according to three people briefed on the talks.

The Biden administration has also told Beijing it would like to send Wendy Sherman, deputy secretary of state, to China over the summer.

The White House is considering a call with Xi Jinping, which would be Biden’s second engagement as US president with his Chinese counterpart.

Top U.S. officials have spent the previous five months building on the strategy implemented by their predecessors under Donald Trump. They continued the previous administration’s work to support Taiwan, call out the Chinese Communist Party’s human-rights abuses in Hong Kong and Xinjiang, and crack down on Chinese military companies.

There have been departures from that approach, too, such as climate envoy John Kerry’s attempts to seek cooperation with Beijing on fighting climate change and Joe Biden’s insistence that his administration will engage Beijing where U.S. and Chinese interests overlap. Blinken and national-security adviser Jake Sullivan met Wang and top Party diplomat Yang Jiechi in Anchorage for talks in March.

So in one sense, this expected push for deeper engagement is not wholly uncharacteristic of the administration’s approach. But to the extent that Beijing is successful in using the meetings to stall U.S. responses to the Party’s malfeasance, it will come to the detriment of everything else that the Biden team has worked to achieve in recent months.

From these meetings with Chinese officials, to the Geneva summit, the president and his aides have declared themselves adherents to the school of thought that sees in-person diplomatic meetings, even with adversaries, as indispensable to maintaining stability. They should also consider that it could also invite worse behavior by these regimes as they fail to face a sufficiently high cost for their actions.

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