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In a bid to stabilize turbulent relations between the world’s two biggest economies, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi convened in Malta on September 16-17 for what both parties described as “candid, substantive and constructive” dialogues.

During this series of meetings, a range of topics were covered, including Asia-Pacific matters, maritime issues, and foreign policy, with both sides emphasizing the importance of maintaining open lines of communication through high-level exchanges and bilateral consultations. This meeting follows the last interaction between Sullivan and Wang, which took place in Vienna this May, potentially paving the way for a future summit between President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping later this year.

The White House and the Chinese foreign ministry released separate statements on Sunday, reflecting a shared commitment to continue “this strategic channel of communication” and to organize “additional high-level engagement and consultations in key areas… in the coming months.”

Even with the consensus on several matters, the contentious issue of Taiwan was a significant point of discussion during the meetings. According to the statements, Sullivan highlighted the “importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.” At the same time, Wang communicated that the Taiwan issue represented the “first insurmountable red line of Sino-US relations.”

The meeting follows Chinese President Xi Jinping’s decision to skip the recent G20 summit in India. President Biden voiced his regret over Xi’s absence but noted that they would likely meet at the upcoming Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit slated for November in San Francisco.

In recent months, high-level US officials, including Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, have visited China this year to sustain communication amidst existing tensions. The last face-to-face interaction between Biden and Xi occurred in 2022 at a G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia.


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