Bingkai Karya – Bangkok, Thailand – January 27, 2024 – High-level diplomats from the United States and China held “candid, substantive” talks in Bangkok, Thailand, despite ongoing tensions over Taiwan. While the self-ruled island remains a major point of contention, both sides described the discussions as fruitful and agreed to further engage on a range of issues.
Focus on Taiwan: The recent Taiwanese elections, where the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) secured a third term, cast a shadow over the talks. China sees Taiwan as part of its territory and vehemently opposes any moves towards independence. Beijing slammed President-elect Lai Ching-te as a separatist and warned of the “evil path” of independence. The US, meanwhile, maintains a longstanding commitment to Taiwan and sent two delegations to the island following the election, reaffirming its support.
Despite Disagreements, Progress Made: Despite the differing stances on Taiwan, the meeting yielded some positive outcomes. Both sides agreed to work towards a phone call between Presidents Xi Jinping and Joe Biden, marking a step towards “high-level diplomacy.” They also established a joint working group on anti-drug cooperation and scheduled an intergovernmental dialogue on artificial intelligence for the spring. Additionally, they acknowledged recent progress in resuming military-to-military communication.
Open Channels, Responsible Management: Both the US and China emphasized the importance of maintaining open lines of communication and responsibly managing their competition. The White House described the talks as part of the effort to “maintain open lines of communication and responsibly manage competition in the relationship” between the two countries. This reflects a desire to manage tensions on sensitive issues while still finding areas for cooperation.
Future Outlook: While the Taiwan issue remains a significant hurdle, the Bangkok talks represent a positive step towards improved US-China relations. Open communication and collaborative efforts on common interests offer a path towards managing disagreements and building a more stable relationship between the two superpowers. However, significant challenges remain, and how both sides handle the Taiwan issue in the coming months will be crucial in determining the long-term success of this diplomatic engagement.