The Biden administration will focus on four key areas in future bilateral engagement with China, National security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Tuesday.
Speaking hours after a 3.5-hour virtual summit between President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping, Sullivan said the future of the U.S.-China relationship can best be categorized by prioritizing four “buckets” in these engagements.
U.S. engagement with China will intensify at multiple levels to ensure that competition between the two powers does not veer into conflict, Sullivan said in a Brookings Institution webinar.
“President Biden did raise with President Xi the need for a strategic stability set of conversations … that that needs to be guided by the leaders and led by senior empowered teams on both sides that cut across security, technology, and diplomacy,” Sullivan said.
“You will see at multiple levels an intensification of the engagement to ensure that there are guardrails around this competition so that it doesn’t veer off into conflict.”
The two leaders will work together on “urgent” issues including ramping up global COVID-19 vaccination rates and implementing the COP26 climate deal, Sullivan said of the first “bucket.”
Biden and Xi will also focus on addressing “immediate” challenges such as escalating missile tests in North Korea, and Iran nuclear talks.
Direct communication between Washington and Beijing will also be improved to effectively “manage differences,” on key issues such as Taiwan, Sullivan said of the Biden administration’s third priority.
“Having clear communication, avoiding miscommunication is going to be an important and intensive aspect of work between our militaries, between our national security councils, and between our diplomats,” he said.
Lastly, China and the United States will work to resolve outstanding issues in the Phase One trade deal, while working to tackle Beijing’s “nonmarket” economic practices, Sullivan added.
Biden and Xi on Monday night talked for about three and a half hours but appeared to do little to narrow differences between the superpowers, and failed to reach any “breakthrough” on issues concerning both nations.
Biden said the United States will work to “advance an international system that is free, open, and fair,” raising concerns about the Chinese Communist Party’s human rights record and abuses he was aware of in Xinjiang, Tibet, and Hong Kong.
According to the White House, Biden used the talks as an opportunity to “speak candidly and straightforwardly” to Xi about the intentions and priorities of his administration across a range of issues.
“We were not expecting this meeting to somehow be a sort of fundamental departure point in where we’re at in the relationship between the United States and China. We were not expecting a breakthrough and there were none,” a senior administration official told reporters in a background call after the conclusion of the summit.
Frank Fang and Reuters contributed to this report.