Biden Adviser to Meet With Chinese Diplomat as Tensions Heighten Between China, Taiwan

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan is being dispatched to Switzerland to discuss a number of issues, particularly Taiwan and trade, with senior Chinese foreign policy adviser Yang Jiechi.

The two officials will meet Wednesday in Zurich on the heels of Monday's criticisms from the White House over what the international community has decried as sustained military harassment by China against autonomous Taiwan.

White House National Security Council spokesperson Emily Horne said in a statement that the talks are a follow-up on President Joe Biden's phone call with President Xi Jinping last month. The administration wants to continue "to seek to responsibly manage the competition" with China.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Anti-China Rally
China has recently sent dozens of military fighter planes to Taiwan. Above, demonstrators hold the flags of Tibet (C) and 'Free Hong Kong—Revolution Now' (L) during an anti-China rally outside the Parliament in Taipei on October 1, 2021. SAM YEH/AFP/Getty Images

The White House this week raised concerns that Beijing was undermining regional peace and stability with its "provocative" action. In recent days, China has sent dozens of fighter planes toward Taiwan—including a record 56 on Monday.

U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai said in a speech on Monday she plans frank conversations with officials in Beijing about an interim trade deal aimed at resolving a tariff war.

Tai said she did not want to "inflame trade tensions with China." But her comments suggested that Biden will continue enforcing tough tariffs against China adopted by his predecessor, Donald Trump.

The latest incursions occurred after Taiwan applied to join a major regional trade pact. Beijing vehemently opposes efforts by the West that offer Taiwan the appearance of sovereign nation status and has expressed its opposition to the application.

China claims democratically ruled Taiwan as its own territory, to be brought under its control by force if necessary. It refuses to recognize the island's government and has increasingly sought to isolate the independence-leaning administration of President Tsai Ing-wen.

Biden has repeatedly called out China for what the administration sees as Beijing's coercive trade practices, human rights abuses against ethnic minorities and its handling of the coronavirus pandemic that originated from the country's Wuhan province. At the same time, the administration has expressed hope that the two sides can work together on issues of mutual concern—including climate change and preventing a nuclear crisis on the Korean Peninsula—despite the differences.

Administration officials have expressed frustration that interactions with high-level Chinese officials in the early going of the administration have been less than constructive.

In June, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Yang had a tense call, with Beijing saying it told the U.S. to cease interfering in its internal affairs and accusing Washington of politicizing the search for the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sullivan and Blinken also had heated exchanges with Yang when they met in March with top Chinese officials in Anchorage. At that meeting, Yang accused the U.S. of failing to deal with its own human rights problems and took issue with what he said was American hypocrisy.

The South China Morning Post first reported plans for the meeting between Sullivan and Yang.

Sullivan will also travel this week to Brussels and Paris for talks with allies.

Jake Sullivan
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan is being sent to Switzerland to discuss topics like Taiwan with China's Yang Jiechi. Above, Sullivan speaks during a press briefing at the White House on June 7, 2021. Evan Vucci, File/AP Photo