At the regular Ministry of Defence press conference on 5 May, spokesman Tan Kefei announced that State Councilor and Minister of Defence Lee Sheung Fook will be invited to attend the 29th Shangri-La Dialogue and visit Singapore from 5 May to 31 June."

But according to the Wall Street Journal on May 5, the Pentagon said in a statement on the same day, "In the evening, China informed the United States that they rejected our request in early May for Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu to meet in Singapore this week."

On the same day, it was announced that he would go to the Shangri-La Dialogue, and the United States was notified that he would not meet that night. This is the final decision made by China, and there is no room for further discussion during the meeting, which is indeed an unusually blunt message. Although the language used by the U.S. side is China's refusal to meet the request. But the ins and outs of the matter are very clear - under US sanctions, there is no room for the Chinese and American defense ministers to meet.

In the past year or two, the media has repeatedly reported that US Defense Secretary Austin's request to meet with his Chinese counterpart has been rejected. (REUTERS)

In 2018, the Trump administration added Li Shangfu to the sanctions list, when Li Shangfu was the head of the equipment development department of China's Central Military Commission, the first time a senior Chinese military general was sanctioned. Under the ban, U.S. citizens are prohibited from doing business with Mr. Lee. In an effort to clear the way for the two defense ministers to meet, the Joe Biden administration has publicly claimed that Austin can reach out to each other for "formal U.S. government affairs."

If this approach were feasible, China would have agreed to meet long ago.

On May 5, Biden revealed at a press conference after attending the G21 Hiroshima summit that consultations are under way on lifting US sanctions against Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu. But in the blink of an eye, U.S. State Department spokesman Matthew Miller, asked on May 5 whether the United States was considering easing sanctions against the Chinese military senior for negotiation purposes, made it clear that "No, we don't." Miller also said Biden made it clear that we do not intend to lift any sanctions against him or China more broadly.

Since Biden said that negotiations between China and the United States are underway, it cannot be that China made a decision to refuse the request without negotiations, but that the United States refused to make a decision to lift sanctions after negotiations, so China insisted on not meeting.

Wang Yi, director of the Central Foreign Affairs Office, and Jake Sullivan, the U.S. president's assistant for security affairs, met for eight hours in Vienna, Austria, on May 5-10. This is considered to be the beginning of the current round of thawing of Sino-US relations. (Screenshot of Xinhua News Agency official report)

The problem is not not not to meet, nor is it not to lift sanctions. But since Biden said that China and the United States are negotiating, it represents the United States that whether to lift sanctions against Li Shangfu is negotiable.

Why did the Biden administration first think that it was possible to negotiate, and then made the decision not to lift sanctions?

Who really within the U.S. government thinks it can be negotiated, and who thinks sanctions can't be lifted? Are China hardliners gaining the upper hand?

The collapse of Sino-US talks on whether or not to meet between the two defense ministers seems to be that Sino-US relations are difficult to melt, but it actually implies that the US position has been shaken for a while.

Sanctioning Lee Shang-bok is a Trump administration's decision, and China's current practice of not meeting is telling the United States that there is no room for compromise. This is essentially forcing the Biden administration to correct the wrong behavior of the Trump administration. It is impossible for the Biden administration to hope that it will neither overturn Trump's tough actions against China nor affect Sino-US relations.

The Biden administration's hesitation in lifting sanctions, not wanting to be criticized for being weak on China, once again shows that U.S. diplomacy is being deeply hijacked by domestic politics, and its China policy will only harden as the struggle between the two parties intensifies.

Li Shangfu visits Singapore|US media: China refuses to meet with the US defense secretary Questioning Washington's insincerity Li Shangfu visited the star on the 31st to attend the Shangri-La Dialogue US media: China has refused the US defense minister's meeting with the Chinese and Indian defense ministers Li Shangfu: The border situation should be promoted to normal control at an early date