Senior U.S. diplomat Sherman visits China


© Reuters. File photo: On November 9, 2018, before the meeting of senior defense officials of the two countries at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, U.S. and Chinese flags can be seen.REUTERS/Yuri Gripas/File Photo


Authors: Simon Lewis and David Brunstrom

WASHINGTON (Reuters)-The US State Department said on Wednesday that US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman will visit China from July 25 to 26 as the world’s two largest economies are seeking solutions to their troubled bilateral relations.

State Council official No. 2 Sherman will meet with State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi and other officials in Tianjin, southeast of Beijing.

Sherman’s visit will take place after the conclusion of her visits to Japan, South Korea and Mongolia. This is her second visit to Asia in less than two months. The US State Department stated that Sherman will also visit Oman on July 27.

The U.S. State Department stated in a statement that the China talks will be “part of the ongoing U.S. efforts to communicate frankly…to promote U.S. interests and values, and to manage relations between the two countries responsibly.”

Using the acronym for the official Chinese name “People’s Republic of China”, it said Sherman will “discuss areas where we are seriously concerned about China’s behavior and where our interests are aligned.”

The foreign policy community has been looking forward to Sherman’s visit to China, but did not announce it along with her other itinerary last week.

This may help lay the foundation for further exchanges and potential meetings between President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping later this year, possibly during the G20 summit in Italy at the end of October.

Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post reported last week that China plans to let Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng meet with Sherman, but the two sides have been arguing over the details of the agreement.

“Our high-level contacts are a valuable resource, so we want to ensure substantive and constructive exchanges with senior Chinese officials,” a senior US government official told reporters.

“This is exactly what we believe we will get in this meeting with Wang Yi.”

North Korea, the climate and Iran are the common concerns she hopes to make progress in China, even though the relationship between the two countries has fallen to the worst level in decades.

“We are of course in ongoing dialogue on potential ways we might be able to solve common problems together,” another senior official said.

Biden has increased sanctions against China for allegedly violating human rights in Xinjiang and Hong Kong, and imposed sanctions on more Chinese officials last week. Unlike Trump, he also extensively seeks to unite allies and partners to help counter what the White House calls China’s increasingly tough economic and foreign policies.

In April, John Kerry, Biden’s special climate envoy, visited Shanghai and became the most senior US official to visit China during the Biden administration.

But other than that, since the Biden administration’s first aggressive high-level diplomatic conference in Alaska in March, there has been almost no high-level face-to-face contact between the two sides. China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi attacked the US at the meeting. He was talking about the hegemonic American foreign policy and its struggling democracy.

The United States accuses China of sensationalizing.

On Friday, the leaders of the Asia-Pacific Trade Organization APEC, including Biden, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, and China’s Xi Jinping, pledged to work hard to expand the sharing and manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines to combat the global pandemic.

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About the Author: Agnes Zang