Politics

China agrees to meet with US defense secretary for first time since Taiwan crisis

China’s defense ministry agreed to meet with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin for the first time since China held unprecedented military drills surrounding Taiwan last month.

China had halted all regular military dialogue with the U.S. following House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan in August. Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe is now scheduled to meet face-to-face with Austin while the pair attend a regional security forum in Southeast Asia this week, Reuters reported Sunday.

A spokesman for China’s defense ministry alluded to the meeting in a statement to reporters this weekend. 

“China holds a proactive and open attitude for exchange with the United States,” said spokesman Tan Kefei when asked about whether the pair would hold talks.

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U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin attends a press cnverence after a meeting of the Ukraine Defence Contact Group at the U.S. military’s Ramstein air base on September 08, 2022 in Ramstein-Miesenbach, Germany.
((Photo by Thomas Niedermueller/Getty Images))

Austin’s meeting comes after President Biden held his first in-person talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping earlier this month.

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U.S.-China tension has been at a high regarding Taiwan, which China has repeatedly threatened to take by force. Taiwan split from mainland China in 1949 after Democratic forces lost a civil war to the Chinese Communist Party and fled to the island.

Biden’s administration has adopted a policy of “strategic ambiguity” on whether the U.S. would intervene militarily if China invaded the island. Biden himself has repeatedly stated that the U.S. would do so, but other members of his administration have repeatedly walked back his statements.

U.S. President Joe Biden shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping as they meet on the sidelines of the G20 leaders' summit in Bali, Indonesia, November 14, 2022.  

U.S. President Joe Biden shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping as they meet on the sidelines of the G20 leaders’ summit in Bali, Indonesia, November 14, 2022.  
(REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

U.S.-China relations face challenges on many other fronts as well. FBI Director Christopher Wray stated last week that Chinese hacking groups steal more private and business data on Americans than all other nations combined.

“China’s vast hacking program is the world’s largest, and they have stolen more Americans’ personal and business data than every other nation combined,” Wray told lawmakers on the House Homeland Security Committee.

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Wray went on to explain the dangers posed by TikTok, a massively popular video sharing app owned by Chinese tech giant ByteDance.

 FBI director nominee Christopher Wray testifies during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee July 12, 2017 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.

 FBI director nominee Christopher Wray testifies during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee July 12, 2017 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.
(Alex Wong/Getty Images)

While TikTok representatives have insisted that users’ data are safe, executives for the company have admitted under oath that the data is accessible from China.

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That access is used frequently as well, according to an extensive report from BuzzFeed earlier this year. The outlet obtained audio from more than 80 internal meetings at TikTok, showing that U.S. employees were not permitted to access user data and instead relied on Chinese employees to do so.

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