According to a US official: "We actually had about as good a meeting as we could have under the circumstances." That said, the most positive result that officials could point to was an agreement that Warren Christopher and his Chinese counterpart, Qian Qichen, would meet again next month in New York. A diplomatic dialogue would continue in the meantime.
As expected, Mr Qian demanded that President Bill Clinton should promise that there would be no more US visas for Taiwan's President Lee Teng-hui. And as expected, Mr Christopher refused. He even acknowledged that circumstances were possible in which a visit such as the one he made last June "may happen again".
For his part, Mr Qian gave no indication that the detained American-Chinese human rights activist, Harry Wu, might be released. Nor was there any Chinese movement on returning their ambassador to Washington, or accrediting a new US ambassador to Peking.
The two ministers were meeting on the fringes of an Association of South- East Asian Nations security forum in Brunei. Mr Christopher delivered a personal letter from President Clinton to President Jiang Zemin seeking to reassure him that America's "one China" policy remained intact.