US-China Backchannel Forum To Halt “Downward Trajectory” In Ties Revealed

US-China Backchannel Forum To Halt “Downward Trajectory” In Ties Revealed

A significant and unexpected new Wall Street Journal report has revealed that a few days prior to the Xi-Biden meeting last week at the G20 summit in Bali, the two countries embarked upon a private back-channel dialogue of top policy advisers and business executives in New York, which was approved by both governments. 

The meeting was described by Retired Adm. Mike Mullen as seeking to prevent the continued “downward trajectory” in US-China relations “at a dangerous time.” Beijing is relying on an American businessman described as an “old friend of China” with a long successful track record of positive dealings in China: insurance executive Maurice “Hank” Greenberg. “As the two great powers of the time, we need to try to turn this around,” Mullen commented of the closed-door talks earlier this month.

Xinhua: Chinese Premier Li Keqiang shakes hands with Maurice R. “Hank” Greenberg during a meeting with overseas delegates attending the China Development Forum in Beijing in March 2016.

The 97-year old Greenberg, chief executive of insurance and investment firm C.V. Starr & Co. and former CEO of insurance giant American International Group Inc., is seen from Beijing as a trusted American intermediary symbolizing a time of better, more pragmatic-oriented business and trade policies between the two economic superpowers.

The WSJ underscores that a Chinese delegation of this caliber hasn’t come to the US for dialogue since before the coronavirus pandemic. Greenberg has long been vocal as being in favor of deepened US engagement with China, having penned a July op-ed in the Journal arguing toward that end. In the piece, he called for renewed efforts to “re-establish a constructive bilateral dialogue.”

That’s when, per sources cited in the report, “Qin Gang, China’s ambassador to Washington and a career diplomat deeply trusted by Mr. Xi, brought the piece to the Chinese leadership’s attention,” and the delegation was readied to go to New York.

“Mr. Xi then greenlighted the Foreign Ministry to form a group that mirrored the one set up by Mr. Greenberg, which is made up of former senior officials and business leaders.”

According to details of the meeting which was viewed by both sides as an sidetrack initiative corresponding to the first face-to-face meeting with Xi of the Biden presidency:

The Chinese and U.S. groups held discussions at C.V. Starr’s headquarters on Park Avenue on Nov. 10 and the next day, with 13 members from each side participating. Among the Americans, according to the people, are Mr. Greenberg, Paul Fribourg, CEO of agribusiness ContiGroup Cos., former U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman and two former U.S. ambassadors to Beijing: Max Baucus, a former Democratic senator from Montana, and Terry Branstad, the former Republican governor of Iowa. 

The Chinese delegation led by Wang Chao, a former vice foreign minister, invited the forum – which participants call the “Morefar Project” – to continue meeting together, with the next round of talks offered to be hosted in China next year. 

AFP via Getty Images

Areas of potential business cooperation were explored, while candid talks were had on the Taiwan crisis, with the Chinese delates reiterating that eventual reunification with the mainland remains a top priority for Beijing. The White House was reportedly briefed on the contents of the candid exchange, and updated on plans for future meetings.

Tyler Durden
Mon, 11/21/2022 – 11:25

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