Top US, Chinese advisers meet in Zurich amid tense relations

AP , Wednesday 6 Oct 2021

Top diplomatic advisers to President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping met for talks Wednesday in Switzerland as the United States looks to improve communications at a time of rising tensions between the global powers.

US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan (L) leaves the Hyatt hotel where US and China top officials holding talks in Zurich Airport on October 6, 2021. - US and China top officials are holding talks to follow up on a September 9 phone call between US and China presidents on how to responsibly manage the competition between the two countries, the White House said in a statement. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan and senior Chinese foreign policy adviser Yang Jiechi held discussions in a hotel next to Zurich's airport. The White House said the meeting was intended to be a follow-up to last month's call between Biden and Xi in which Biden stressed the need to set clear parameters in their competition.

In the latest sign of the stress, the Chinese military has been flying dozens of sorties near the self-ruled island of Taiwan, which Beijing considers part of its territory.

The Biden administration on Wednesday reiterated concerns that Beijing was undermining regional peace and stability with its ``provocative'' action. China sent a record 56 fighter planes toward Taiwan on Monday alone.

``We strongly urge Beijing to cease its military, diplomatic and economic pressure and coercion directed at Taiwan,'' said U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who was in Paris for talks with French officials.

At the start of Biden's presidency, he pledged to press Beijing on its human rights record. His administration has affirmed the U.S. position, first made late in the Trump administration, that China's repression of Uyghur Muslims and other minorities in its northwest Xinjiang region was ``genocide.''

In March, the United States, in coordination with the European Union, United Kingdom and Canada, imposed sanctions on top communist party officials for their roles in detaining and abusing Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities. At June's Group of Seven summit in England, Biden successfully pressed fellow leaders to include specific language criticizing China's use of forced labor and other human rights abuses in the leaders' joint statement.

Human rights advocates and Republican lawmakers in the U.S. have raised concerns that the administration might be easing pressure on human rights as it looks for cooperation from Beijing on the global effort on climate change and in thwarting North Korea's nuclear program.

The White House said last week it did not have a position on the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which was passed by the U.S. Senate in July.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican and sponsor of the legislation, wrote in the Washington Times on Wednesday that ``the Biden administration is choosing to ignore the Chinese Communist Party's egregious human rights abuses to strike a deal on climate.''

The U.S. also signaled this week that for the time being it plans to stick with tariffs levied against China during the Trump administration.

U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai, in a speech in Washington this week, said she would begin engaging her Chinese counterparts to discuss Beijing's failure to meet commitments made in the first phase of a U.S.-China trade agreement signed in January 2020. Biden has criticized Beijing for ``coercive'' trade practices, including its use of forced labor, that has led to an unfair playing field.

``We will use the full range of tools we have and develop new tools as needed to defend American economic interests from harmful policies and practices,'' Tai said.

Short link: