February 21, 2019

Is a Thaw Coming in US-China Relations?

“The news about U.S.-China relations has been decidedly negative lately, particularly since U.S. Vice President Mike Pence’s fiery speech criticizing the Chinese government on October 4. But now, amid the trade war and continuing tensions in the South China Sea, there are glimmers of hope for a thaw.

Both China and the United States announced today that they will hold the second round of the Diplomatic and Security Dialogue (DSD) in Washington D.C. on November 9. The DSD is analogous to a “two-plus-two” meeting in that it brings together top foreign affairs and defense officials. It will be chaired by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense James Mattis on the U.S. side; Yang Jiechi, director of the Chinese Communist Party’s Office of Foreign Affairs, and Defense Minister Wei Fenghe will represent China.

The DSD was one of four new dialogue “pillars” announced by U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping in April 2017. All four dialogues were held in 2017. Prior to today’s announcement, though, not one has been resurrected for 2018; the DSD will be the first to have a second round.

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According to media reports, the DSD was originally to be held in Beijing in mid-October, but the meeting was cancelled at the beginning of that month, supposedly because Wei was no longer available to host his counterpart. It is widely assumed that was retaliation for the U.S. decision to sanction a Chinese defense organization for purchasing the S-400 missile defense system from Russia.”

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