US fails to trap China over Ukraine at Yang-Sullivan meeting
Published: Mar 15, 2022 11:18 PM
Yang Jiechi (1st L), a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the CPC Central Committee, meets with U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan (1st R) in Rome, Italy, March 14, 2022.(Photo: Xinhua)

Yang Jiechi (1st L), a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the CPC Central Committee, meets with U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan (1st R) in Rome, Italy, March 14, 2022. Photo: Xinhua)

On the same day as a seven-hour meeting between senior Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi and US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan in Rome on Monday which was described by some media outlets as "intense," US Air Force General Kenneth Wilsbach blatantly threatened to teach China a lesson from the Ukraine situation, which could be applied to the Taiwan question. Such conceit was defied by the first direct high-level engagement between Chinese and US officials over the situation in Ukraine on which Washington had tried to misguide Beijing to serve its own interests, although failing to do so as the Chinese side stressed its consistent stance on the issue and urged the US side to correct its wrong words and deeds. 

Ahead of the meeting, the US has been constantly spreading disinformation about China's role in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, and some US officials tried to mix the Ukraine crisis with the Taiwan question, trying to hijack China over the issues and portraying a false image of the "China-Russia alliance." All these ill-intentioned tactics, in the eyes of Chinese experts, reflect little goodwill from the US for constructive talks while its contradiction between its words and deeds dampens the prospects of a healthy and stable China-US relationship. 

Hours after the meeting between Yang and Sullivan finished, China released an 850-word readout reiterating its stance on core issues such as the Taiwan question and the current situation in Ukraine. In rejecting Washington's continuous pressure on misleading Beijing over the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Yang called for taking a long-term view, actively advocating a vision of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security, encouraging relevant parties to conduct equal-footed dialogue, and set up a balanced, effective and sustainable European security framework based on the principle of indivisible security in a bid to preserve peace in Europe and around the world.

"The Chinese side resolutely opposes any words and deeds that spread false information, or distort and discredit China's position," he said. 

On the heels of the high-level meeting, some US media outlets, citing unnamed US officials, hyped the role of China in the crisis by saying that "Russia asked China to give it military equipment and support for the war," and based on that disinformation, Sullivan expressed "deep concerns" about China's close ties with Russia during the meeting. 

In addition, some other Western media outlets also hyped China's willingness to provide "military assistance to Russia," and before the meeting with Yang, Sullivan warned  the so-called consequences if China helps Russia evade Western sanctions. 

Some Chinese experts believe that the Rome meeting was an occasion for the senior Chinese official to straightforwardly lay out the country's consistent position on the Ukraine issue, when the US-led West continued to pressure China to "pick a side." Not only has the US failed to understand the essence of the China-Russia relationship, it also maliciously connected the Ukraine crisis with the Taiwan question, despite the different nature of the two issues, some experts said, noting that with the strategic composure, China has not fallen into this trap.

Failed trap

Although the Ukraine issue was a priority for the US during Monday's meeting to pressure China to take a stand, it seems the attempt was unsuccessful, Wu Xinbo, dean of the Institute of International Studies at Fudan University, told the Global Times on Tuesday. 

"Not only did China's position remain unchanged, but it also refuted the rumors and false information the US was spreading. It means that the goal of the US for this meeting has failed," Wu said.

Compared to the readout from China, the US summarized the meeting in only 80 words, as a statement published on the White House website showed, and this shorter-than-expected readout shows the US did not reach any fruitful results from the meeting, some experts said, noting that it also reflects that Washington only focused on its own issues of concern, making the latest China-US talk superficial. 

Experts said that it is worth noticing that when Yang talked about China-US relations, he particularly brought up the Taiwan question, as after the outbreak of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, many Western media have been hyping the relevance of the Ukraine issue with the Taiwan question, but these two are fundamentally different, and attempts to combine them are considered "villainous".

On the same day as the Rome talks, top US Air Force General Kenneth Wilsbach connected the situation in Ukraine with the question of Taiwan, saying that one of the "key lessons" the Chinese are taking from the Ukraine situation is the "solidarity of the global community," and that if China behaves in a similar way against the island or another neighbor, "something more robust will happen," he said at an online discussion on Monday, according to Air Force Magazine. 

"From this perspective, we can tell the Sullivan team has not talked with the Chinese side from a position of goodwill and it continued ramping up the pressure, forcing China to yield to its will. But I think they seriously underestimate China's firm position," Lü Xiang, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Tuesday. 

The Ukraine crisis is part of the extension of the Cold War, which is also the result of the longstanding strategic conflict between the US and Russia, but the Taiwan question is about China's core interests on which neither extreme pressure nor hyping international opinion would shake China's position and determination, Lü said. 

Clear stance 

Stressing that the Taiwan question concerns China's sovereignty and territorial integrity, Yang said during the meeting that in the three Sino-US joint communiqués, the US side explicitly recognized that there is only one China and that the one-China principle is the premise for establishing diplomatic relations between China and the US as well as the political foundation of their relations.

The current US administration has pledged to adhere to the one-China principle and not to support "Taiwan independence" in regard to the Taiwan question, but its actions are obviously inconsistent with its statements, he said.

Asked about the Yang-Sullivan meeting, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told a routine press conference on Tuesday that China demands the US to clearly recognize the high level of sensitivity of the Taiwan question, adhere to the one-China principle and avoid going down on the wrong path.

The Taiwan question is China's core interests and concern, therefore we must emphasize this point to the US at such a time. It also shows that China has been very unsatisfied with the Biden administration's stance toward the Taiwan question, Wu noted.

"As the Biden administration has not changed its fundamental mindset of dealing with China and its diplomacy is controlled by hawks toward China, I hardly see any significant improvements in China-US relations," he said, noting that a major issue now is about the credibility of the US government. 

Experts believe that Washington's efforts to use the Ukraine crisis to demonize the image of China or impede the process of China's reunification process would only end up in vain. 

"No matter how much the US attempts to bluff public opinion or threaten potential sanctions [on China], it won't have any impact on the core interests of China," Lü said, noting that if the reunification needs to be done by force given the escalation of the situation, China will finalize it without hesitation.