For much of Biden’s time in office — as relations between the United States and China have soured — the U.S. has struggled to get the Chinese to even engage in senior-level phone calls.
Incidents such as the revelation of a Chinese spy balloon above U.S. territory further eroded trust and diplomacy. China also recently has had turbulence in its leadership ranks, including the ouster of a foreign minister.
But some U.S. officials, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, have visited Beijing in recent months, and the Chinese — whose economy is facing struggles — have shown interest in increasing discussions.
Wang Yi is a key figure in both the Chinese Communist Party and China’s administrative ranks. He previously held a quiet round of meetings wtih Sullivan in Vienna.
The talks in Malta were “candid, substantive and constructive,” the White House said in its readout.
“The two sides discussed key issues in the U.S.-China bilateral relationship, global and regional security issues, Russia’s war against Ukraine, and cross-Strait issues, among other topics,” the readout added, without getting into details.
The White House noted, in particular, that discussions included the “importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.”
The fate of Taiwan, a self-governed island which Beijing claims as China’s territory, has been a key source of tension. Biden has repeatedly suggested he would send U.S. troops to defend Taiwan if China were to attack the island.
The meeting coincided with administration head scratching over the fate of China’s Defense Minister Li Shangfu, who disappeared from public view more than two weeks ago. There are deepening suspicions that Li has been deposed over possible links to military corruption, per reporting by Reuters. Li’s disappearance follows the still-unexplained replacement of now former Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang in July.