US-China relationship can easily veer towards conflict if not well managed: Jake Sullivan

US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan warns of potential conflict in upcoming Biden-Xi Summit, emphasising the need for effective diplomacy

Biden and Xi are scheduled to meet in San Francisco on 15 November on the sidelines of the APEC Leadership meeting. (representative image)  (photo: DW)
Biden and Xi are scheduled to meet in San Francisco on 15 November on the sidelines of the APEC Leadership meeting. (representative image) (photo: DW)


The United States-China could easily veer towards a conflict if it is not well managed, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan has said ahead of the much-anticipated meeting between US President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.

Biden and Xi are scheduled to meet in San Francisco on Wednesday on the sidelines of the APEC Leadership meeting. The White House is calling it a summit.

Sullivan on Monday said the US president has the opportunity to engage, so do the rest of his team, on how they effectively manage peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. "Those are some of the issues that, through intense diplomacy, we have been able to manage," he said.

"Then will look for opportunities to actually generate affirmative outcomes that deliver tangible progress for the American people in areas where our interests overlap. I mentioned, for example, the issue of fentanyl.

"We're hoping to see some progress on that issue this coming week, and that could then open the door to further cooperation on other issues where we aren't just managing things, but we're actually delivering tangible results," Sullivan said.

The US National Security Advisor said the most important thing is that "this is a complex and a competitive relationship that could easily veer into conflict or confrontation if it's not well managed".

"So, managing the relationship effectively is the single most important responsibility of the president and everyone who works for him on this file," Sullivan told reporters at a news conference here.

"Beyond that, the US and China have to be able to speak directly to one another on all of the critical issues that face our two countries, including issues in moments of crisis like the Russia-Ukraine crisis. President Biden has had a number of candid conversations with President Xi about the question of military support to the Russian Federation in the conduct of its war in Ukraine," he said in response to a question.

During the San Francisco meeting, Sullivan said that he anticipates the leaders will discuss some of the most fundamental elements of the US-China bilateral relationship, including the continued importance of strengthening open lines of communication and managing competition responsibly.

"The way we achieve that is through intense diplomacy. That's how we clear up misperceptions and avoid surprises. That's how we work together where and when our interests overlap and deliver on key priorities for the American people," he said.

Sullivan said in recent months he met Chinese Foreign Minister and PRC Director of the CCP Central Foreign Affairs Commission Wang Yi thrice, and top US secretaries of State, Treasury, and Commerce all went to Beijing.

"China for its part sent its vice president, foreign minister and other senior officials to the United States in recent months. President Biden comes into this summit on a solid footing, given the ways in which he has positioned the United States to be able to compete effectively both at home and around the world," the US National Security Advisor said.

Responding to questions, Sullivan talked about having lines of communication open to manage competition responsibly.

"That's what the (US) president has set out to achieve in this summit with President Xi. He sees this not just as a one-off meeting, but as an important moment to be able to establish the kind of basis upon which we can proceed out into the future," Sullivan added. 

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Published: 14 Nov 2023, 12:04 PM