Washington and Beijing continue their diplomatic dance. But behind the scenes, China is ramping up its anti-democracy and disinformation campaigns dressed up as foreign policy.
President Xi Jinping’s regime is also flexing its muscles in the Taiwan Strait and the broader South China Sea and Eastern Pacific.
While talks between National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi were taking place in Malta at the weekend, China was conducting major military exercises around the democratic island of Taiwan.
Yet again it showed Beijing has no intention of de-escalating its military build-up in the South and East China Seas.
“The continuous military harassment by the Communist military can easily lead to a sharp increase in tensions and worsen regional security,” the Taiwan Ministry of Defense said on Monday after more than 100 PLA jets buzzed around the island.
“We call on the Beijing authorities to take responsibility and immediately stop such destructive unilateral actions,” it added.
Meetings and mayhem:
- In Malta, Sullivan and Wang “discussed key issues in the US-China bilateral relationship.”
- The talks involved “global and regional security” and “cross-Taiwan Strait” concerns.
- Other topics included “Russia’s war against Ukraine,” the White House confirmed.
Delve deeper: Washington and Beijing are trying to keep the lid on rising tension between the two economic and military powers. Flashpoints revolve around technology, China’s tacit support of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and economic coercion.
Big picture: As the risks escalate, Xi and his inner circle are struggling to contain a domestic crisis that has rocked the world’s second-largest economy. The property sector is in meltdown while local government debt has soared amid high unemployment among the young.
Between the lines: “Clear-eyed assessments are needed – this isn’t just a question of whether China is a partner or a competitor, it is a source of economic, political and military risk,” Drew Thompson, of the National University of Singapore and a former Pentagon official, said in media reports.
China Factor comment: Keeping the lines of “communications” open is vital for Washington and Beijing. Even if the permafrost is still visible.