China-US relations

Meeting of top US and Chinese diplomats a first since Trump’s election

The two sides use discussion on sidelines of G20 summit to agree to move their strained relations forward, according to People’s Daily

PUBLISHED : Friday, 17 February, 2017, 8:23pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 18 February, 2017, 1:59am

Foreign Minister Wang Yi met his American counterpart, Rex Tillerson, on Friday on the sidelines of the Group of 20 ministers meeting, marking the first face-to-face Sino-US encounter at a high level since the election of President Donald Trump.

During their meeting, Wang told Tillerson that the recent phone conversation between President Xi Jinping and Trump was “very important”, because Washington had made it clear that it would continue to adhere to the one-China policy, according to the Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily.

Trump reaffirms one-China policy in surprise phone call with Xi Jinping

The paper said the two diplomats had agreed that China and the US “could become very good partners and should push forward bilateral relations”.

Mark Toner, a State Department spokesman, added that: “Tillerson also highlighted the increasing threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes and urged China to use all available tools to moderate North Korea’s destabilising ­behaviour.”

The meeting, which took place in Bonn, Germany, was a debut for Tillerson the diplomat, formerly head of oil giant ExxonMobil.

“No doubt each side would air its priority issues,” said Wu Xinbo, director of Fudan University’s Centre for American Studies. “For China, American involvement in the South China Sea territorial dispute is a no-brainer, not least because Tillerson had come out tough during his confirmation hearing last month.”

Trump talks by phone with Taiwanese president, risking major row with Beijing

Trump had rankled Beijing with comments that threatened to unravel Washington’s one-China policy. Only after he turned around to pledge his support for the policy did the ministers get the green light to meet.

“It appeared to be a very workman-like meeting,” said Steve Tsang, director of the SOAS China Institute in London. “The Chinese have been incredibly cautious. They don’t want the relationship to go off the rails. And they keep their cards close to their chest.

“The fact that there’s no acrimony is a positive sign,” he said.