China-US talks held by top diplomats Yang Jiechi and Mike Pompeo amid Hong Kong spat
- The pair meet in New York on Tuesday for exchange of views that observers predict will include anti-government protests in Hong Kong
- Meeting shows willingness to manage the countries’ many differences – but neither side indicates any positive outcome
A brief statement released by state-run Xinhua news agency said Yang, a Politburo member and head of the Communist Party Office of Foreign Affairs, had exchanged views with Pompeo on the relationship between China and the US, without elaborating. The US State Department also released a brief statement without giving details about the meeting.
Shen Dingli, a professor of US studies at Fudan University, said the meeting was an indication that both sides were seeking to prevent their confrontations spiralling out of control.
“Though the two countries seem to be enlarging their scope of differences, they still understand the need to control and narrow such differences whenever possible,” Shen said.
Shen said the situation in Hong Kong would have been a key item on the agenda, as well as the countries’ year-long trade war.
“On Hong Kong, China would ask the US not to intervene, while the US would ask China to show restraint,” he said.
Wu Xinbo, director of Fudan University’s Centre for American Studies, said trade was unlikely to be central to the discussion because it was not the direct responsibility of either Yang or Pompeo, but the meeting represented a show of goodwill after disagreements over Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Taiwan further caused the China-US relationship to deteriorate.
“This meeting will not be very useful, but shows that both sides can still manage to talk,” Wu said. “Even though [US President] Donald Trump has said China can handle the situation in Hong Kong and he is not interested in the city, other politicians are seeking to intervene in it. Trump cannot control them and will not stop them.”
On Tuesday, US officials said that port calls in Hong Kong on Saturday and next month by USS Green Bay, an amphibious dock landing ship, and guided missile cruiser USS Lake Erie had been rejected by China.
“The Chinese government denied requests for port visits to Hong Kong [by the two vessels],” US Pacific Fleet Commander Nate Christensen said.
Clayton Dube, director of the University of Southern California US-China Institute, said the Yang-Pompeo talks would be focused on Hong Kong, North Korea and Iran.
“The fact that the exchange of views was not characterised by either side as useful or constructive suggests each simply made sure the other understood their point of view,” Dube said.
“Presumably both stressed how important the relationship is to their respective countries and how they wanted it to be a healthy relationship.”