defense ministers of United States and China met this Friday in their first in-person meeting since the beginning of the president’s administration Joe Biden. Both aim to prevent the increasingly frequent diplomatic and military tensions from turning into misunderstandings that could lead to a military conflict.
Relations between China and the United States have been tense, with the two largest economies in the world facing each other in many sectors, and with the open wound of Taiwan constantly boiling. There are also other thorny issues such as the respect for human rights demanded of China and its military activity in the South China Sea.
The US Secretary of Defense, LloydAustin, and China’s Minister of National Defense, Gen. wei fenghe, met in Singapore on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue forum, Asia’s premier security gathering. Before the meeting, a senior US official stated that both want to lower the tension: “We are doing everything possible to ensure that it is a professional, substantive meeting and we are going to be talking about some very serious issues, but there is no desire on the part of the United States to do something public,” the official said.
Chinese media have also said that Beijing will use the meeting to discuss cooperation with the United States. But the meeting will have served to discuss many issues, on which the two do not agree, such as the sovereignty of Taiwan and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
China, which claims democratic Taiwan as its own territory, has increased military activity near the island in the past two years in response to what it calls “collusion” between Taipei and Washington. Last month, Biden said the United States would get involved militarily if China attacks Taiwan, although the administration has since clarified that US policy on the issue has not changed and that Washington does not support Taiwan independence.
Washington has had a policy of strategic ambiguity about whether it would defend Taiwan militarily. This year, the US warned that Beijing seemed willing to help Russia in its war against Ukraine. But since then, US officials have said that while they remain wary of China’s support for Russia in general, the military and economic support they worried about has not materialized, at least for now.
China has not condemned Russia’s attack and he does not call it an invasion, but he has called for a negotiated solution. Beijing and Moscow have grown closer in recent years, and in February the two sides signed a wide-ranging strategic partnership aimed at countering US influence and said they would have “no ‘forbidden’ areas of cooperation.”