|US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman during talks with Chinese officials in Tianjin on July 26. (Photo: Reuters)
The Tianjin visit was the first visit to China by a senior US official since Joe Biden became President in January. Tensions between the two countries have been high recently in diplomacy, technology, and commerce. The world is watching to see if the visit will help thaw the relationship, which is at its lowest level in decades.
Common ground not yet found
The focus of Deputy Secretary Sherman's visit has been separate talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng. Just as they did at high-level talks in Alaska in March, both sides stuck to their positions.
After the talks, the Chinese press quoted harsh criticism of the US by Wang and Xie. The two Chinese officials accused the US of conducting "coercive diplomacy" and urged the US to stop meddling in issues like Taiwan and Xinjiang. Beijing released two lists of actions that Washington needs to take, including removing sanctions on Chinese officials, lifting its student visa ban, ending harassment of Chinese journalists in the US, and reopening Confucius Institutes.
US State Department spokesman Ned Price said Sherman raised a number of human rights issues concerning Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and Tibet, and expressed concern about Beijing's behavior in cyberspace, the Taiwan Strait, and the East and South China Seas. She also mentioned the World Health Organization‘s investigation into the origin of COVID-19 to which China has objected.
The two sides differed even in the way they viewed the talks. Beijing seemed more focused on the peer-to-peer dialogue between Ms. Sherman and Vice Foreign Minister Xie, while Washington stressed the importance of the meeting between Ms. Sherman and Foreign Minister Wang.
|US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (Photo: Politico)
Respect for dialogue
Despite being unrelenting tough with each other, both the US and China found a way to indicate that they want, and recognize a need, to continue this dialogue.
Mr. Price said following the talks that they had discussed “ways to set terms for responsible management of the US-China relationship.” He said that in her meeting with Wang, Sherman vowed “stiff competition” but said that Washington “did not seek conflict” with Beijing.
Sherman said the US-China relationship is crucial to both sides and to the rest of the world, so the US is ready to continue an open and candid dialogue with China. Deputy Secretary Sherman’s visit in itself can be seen as a message that the US desires this dialogue.
According to Xinhua News Agency, Foreign Minister Wang said the US Deputy Secretary of State’s visit is part of the ongoing bilateral meetings and dialogues. He emphasized the need to strengthen mutual understanding and clear up misunderstandings through such meetings. The fact that both Foreign Minister Wang and his deputy met with Sherman shows that Beijing also desires a dialogue with the US.