China Declines US Request for Defense Chiefs Meeting

    China Declines US Request for Defense Chiefs Meeting
    Last updated May 30, 2023
    Image credit: Wikimedia Commons


    • China rejected a US request for a meeting between US Sec. of State Lloyd Austin and his Chinese counterpart Li Shangfu at a security forum set to begin Friday in Singapore, criticizing Washington for the move on Tuesday.
    • On Monday, the Pentagon said that the PRC had declined an invitation extended in early May for a meeting between the two defense ministers at the annual Shangri-La Security Forum, adding that the US will continue to work to improve bilateral channels of military-to-military communication.
    • In response, the Chinese Embassy in the US questioned the seriousness and significance of Washington's offer, citing US sanctions imposed and demanding that the punitive measures be lifted immediately.
    • Washington issued sanctions against Li in 2018 over China's purchase of Russian arms, in addition to imposing sanctions against the PRC for suspected human rights abuses in China's Xinjiang region and political freedom restrictions in Hong Kong.
    • Meanwhile, China's Defense Ministry on Monday confirmed that Li will participate in the Shangri-La Dialogue, where Austin met with then-Defense Minister Wei Fenghe in 2022 and which is one of the few settings for meetings between US and PRC defense ministers.
    • China's refusal comes after US Pres. Biden said at the recent G7 summit in Japan that he expected an imminent "thaw" in US-China relations and that he was considering lifting sanctions against Li, but the US State Department later clarified that was not the case.


    Pro-China narrative

    The US seems to seriously believe that it can impose illegal unilateral sanctions against China on the one hand, while pretending to want to build a relationship of trust and communication on the other. This kind of paradoxical US diplomacy is an expression of internalized hegemonic thinking that no longer has a place in a multipolar world. Instead of its persistent and ill-intended attempts to contain China, Washington must take concrete steps to remove obstacles to sincere dialogue and back up its words with direct action.

    Anti-China narrative

    US sanctions against China do not rule out a meeting between the two defense ministers in Singapore, and this is far from the first time that Beijing has rejected invitations from senior US defense officials to engage in dialogue. Both facts illustrate that Beijing is only using the US-imposed sanctions as a pretext to refuse military communications and continue its policy of confrontation. If the PRC is serious about stabilizing security ties with the US and its openness to engage in bilateral dialogue, now is the time to prove it.

    Nerd narrative

    There's an 18% chance that the US and China will be at war before 2035, according to the Metaculus prediction community.

    Establishment split



    Sign up to our newsletter!