Number Two in the State Department to visit China, and the highest-ranking trip under Biden.
The State Department confirmed Wednesday that US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman will visit China this weekend, making her the highest-ranking official under President Joe Biden to do so amid rising tensions.
“These meetings are part of continuous US efforts to have open discussions with PRC officials to advance US interests and values and to appropriately manage the relationship,” according to a State Department statement.
“The deputy secretary will cover areas where we have severe concerns about PRC measures, as well as areas where our interests are aligned,” the statement stated.
Even yet, the trip won’t have all of the trappings of a full-fledged formal visit. Sherman will not travel to Beijing, but will instead spend two days in Tianjin, China’s eastern port city, beginning on Sunday.
She will meet with senior officials in Tianjin, including Foreign Minister Wang Yi, according to the State Department.
The only other top official from the Biden administration to visit China is John Kerry, the former secretary of state turned US climate envoy, as the world’s two greatest polluters committed to work together on the global catastrophe despite a slew of differences.
Kerry did not hold talks in the capital, instead meeting with his climate counterpart in Shanghai, where the typically media-friendly former senator had few public appearances.
In a clearly hostile meeting in March in Alaska, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security advisor, met with Wang and top Chinese official Yang Jiechi in a visibly tense meeting in which the Chinese side berated the US in front of the cameras.
Despite recent occurrences, Sherman’s travel indicates a willingness to at least evaluate the connection.
The US has openly accused Beijing of carrying out the major Microsoft Exchange hack in March and issued a business alert warning of risks in Hong Kong since last week. Due to reports of forced labor, the US Senate voted to ban imports from the Xinjiang province.
Sherman is now on a tour of Japan, South Korea, and Mongolia throughout Asia. The fact that China was not included in the State Department’s announcement of her trip last week aroused eyebrows, implying that the two sides were still negotiating whether she should come.