A top Chinese diplomat on Wednesday held talks with US Secretary of State John Kerry and National Security Adviser Susan Rice on expanding cooperation between the two world powers, just ahead of the US presidential election.
Analysts said the meeting between State Councillor Yang Jiechi and the US officials in Washington showed that Beijing was concerned over possible changes to relations after next week’s election, and it was an effort to keep ties stable until the new US administration took power in January.
In the talks, Yang said the two nations had to maintain high-level communication and minimise their differences, according to the Foreign Affairs Ministry.
US National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said the two sides “reviewed progress in bringing about a more durable, stable and productive bilateral relationship”.
The administration of US President Barack Obama has forged cooperation with Beijing on issues such as climate change. But as Obama enters his final months in office, there are signs of strain in relations amid tensions in the South China Sea and provocations by Chinese ally North Korea.
US officials said the low-key meeting was probably the last opportunity for extended discussions with Yang before a new US administration took office.
Yang is a familiar figure in Washington, having also served as China’s foreign minister and an ambassador to the US.
Shi Yinhong, an international affairs analyst at Renmin University, said Beijing was concerned that the foreign policy directions of the two US presidential candidates – Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump – were unclear.
“China hopes to put Sino-US ties on a stable track during the remaining months of the Obama administration. Hopefully, it will lay some ground for their bilateral ties for the next US administration,” he said.
“There will not be any breakthrough on Sino-US relations during the next few months, but it is hoped that tensions over the South and East China seas and the Korean Peninsula will not escalate,” he added.
Zhao Lei, an American affairs analyst from the Central Party School, said the meeting indicated that both sides were serious about the relationship.
“No matter who wins the election, Sino-US ties will still make an impact on the world,” he said.
US State Department spokesman John Kirby pushed back on Tuesday against perceptions that the US was losing friends in Asia.
We have nothing to fear from nations establishing better … relationships with China,” he said.
Additional reporting by Associated Press and Kristin Huang