“The two parties had frank, substantive and constructive discussions,” assures the White House in a press release. Saturday September 16 and Sunday September 17, Jake Sullivan, Joe Biden’s national security advisor, and Wang Yi, head of Chinese diplomacy, met in Malta, in a context that remains tense between the two great powers. A senior US executive official, who requested anonymity, said the meeting lasted a total of 12 hours over two days.

The last meeting of this type dates back to last May. It was around the same time, in the spring, that the American president predicted a “thaw” in the Sino-American relationship, which had soured in February following a Chinese balloon flying over the United States.

During her exchange with the Chinese minister, Jake Sullivan “emphasized that the United States and China are engaged in competition, but that the United States does not seek conflict or confrontation,” she added during an exchange with the press, using a formulation that has become ritual from the Biden administration. “Wang Yi stressed that the Taiwan issue was the first red line not to be crossed in Sino-American relations,” assured Beijing for its part.

In this discussion in Malta, China and the United States also “committed to consultations” in certain areas, in particular regarding “political and security developments in the Asia-Pacific”, according to the White House source. However, communications between military officials from the two countries, which Beijing had cut off in August 2022 following a visit to Taiwan by the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, have not resumed.

The Americans, however, have “weak and limited indications” that the Chinese “may be interested” in a possible reestablishment of this type of contact, the senior official said.

The United States and China have renewed dialogue in recent months with a succession of visits by senior American officials to Beijing, including the head of diplomacy Antony Blinken, and other high-level meetings are under discussion, according to the high White House official. However, she did not comment on speculation about a tête-à-tête between Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the next APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) summit in mid-November. San Francisco (California).

In February, tensions between China and the United States rose with the flight over American territory by Chinese balloons, a espionage operation according to Washington. Bilateral relations still remain tense, with trade disputes, Chinese expansion in the South China Sea and the issue of the self-governing democratic island of Taiwan remaining stumbling blocks.

Beijing does not view very favorably the very active diplomacy of the United States in Asia, illustrated by a recent strengthening of the American-Vietnamese relationship for example, nor Joe Biden’s repeated comments on the economic and demographic weaknesses of the Asian giant.