Top White House official Sullivan holds 'candid' talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang

Beijing increased engagement with the Middle East over the summer, as the US tries for a Biden-Xi bilateral meeting

White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan. Reuters
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US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan had “candid” discussions with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi this week to “maintain the relationship” with Beijing as competition between the world powers increases.

The White House said discussions between the two, which lasted more than two days at a summit in Malta, were “substantive and constructive", as the world’s two largest economies try “to maintain open lines of communication".

“This quiet, low-profile channel between the National Security Adviser and his counterparts are an important way to manage competition,” a senior administration official told reporters on Sunday.

Washington and Beijing consider themselves to be competitors despite an extensive trade partnership.

US President Joe Biden spoke with Chinese Premier Li Qiang at the recent G20 summit, where he said they talked about “stability”, and “it wasn’t confrontational at all".

The US administration has been trying for a meeting between Mr Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping, but the official on Sunday said there was no update on when it could take place.

Discussions included “US policy in the Indo-Pacific and other regions", as well as Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The Biden administration's foreign policy has continued a “pivot to the East", with increased attention on competition with China in East Asia, although Beijing is increasing its engagement with Arab countries and the Global South.

Mr Sullivan's talks with Mr Wang came after a significant August for China's engagement with the Middle East.

The China-led Brics bloc last month expanded to include four regional nations, including the UAE.

And Beijing issued a bid for Saudi Arabian nuclear power, while Morocco, Algeria and Iraq are pursuing power and railway deals with China.

Washington has repeated areas of opportunities for co-operation with Beijing, “including counter-narcotics and [artificial intelligence]", the White House said on Sunday.

Updated: September 17, 2023, 6:42 PM