In a bid to revive severed military communications between the United States and China, President Joe Biden is poised to appeal to his Chinese counterpart, President Xi Jinping. The plea for restoration of the military ties, which were abruptly cut off last year, will be broached during their meeting at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in San Francisco, as revealed by Jake Sullivan, White House national security advisor.
Despite multiple attempts by Secretary of State Antony Blinken to renew these ties, China has consistently declined, maintaining a rigid stance since August 2022. The catalyst for this break was then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, which China interpreted as an official endorsement of the self-governing island it considers part of its territory.
According to Sullivan, the resumption of military interactions is a high priority for Biden, as he sees it as a prerequisite for adequately managing competition and preventing it from escalating into conflict. Regular communication could be a powerful tool to eliminate potential errors, misunderstandings, or miscommunications.
The President is firmly committed to reestablishing military ties, which is crucial for the U.S. national security interest. However, Sullivan refrained from disclosing any further information about potential announcements by the President.
This will be the second face-to-face meeting between Biden and Xi. Despite a series of attempts by the Department of Defense to engage China, they have been repeatedly rebuffed since 2021.
China’s resistance is partly attributed to the imposition of sanctions on its former Defense Minister, Li Shangfu, following China’s acquisition of fighter jets and missile defense systems from Russia. Chinese Foreign Ministry official Yang Tao stated that the U.S. must first eliminate these obstacles to facilitate military cooperation.
Meanwhile, former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, a potential Republican presidential candidate, urged the Biden administration to remain firm against Beijing in a recent social media post.
Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations at Renmin University in Beijing, indicated that China is unwilling to ensure conflict avoidance as it would indirectly support the U.S.’ backing of Taiwan. Without changes on the U.S. side, Shi foresees China persistently refusing to reestablish military communications with the U.S.
Similarly, Lt. Gen. He Lei cited the refusal to lift sanctions on Li and the U.S.’ interference in the Taiwan issue as reasons for China’s rejection of the resumption of military contacts.