US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Beijing on Sunday, where he had already met with his Chinese counterpart Qin Gang. The interview lasted five and a half hours. He is the first high-ranking American diplomat to visit China in five years. Reuters writes that the trip comes amid “frosty bilateral relations” and “dim prospects for a breakthrough” but is intended to “stop the downward spiral.”
As Reuters writes, the two countries – currently the largest economies in the world – are divided by a long list of contentious issues. Antony Blinken’s talks in Beijing are intended to prevent differences from turning into an open conflict. Blinken’s visit comes – as the agency writes – in a situation of “frosty bilateral relations” and “poor prospects for a breakthrough”.
Blinken, who postponed his planned February trip to China after a suspected Chinese spy balloon flew over US airspace, he is the highest-ranking US government official to visit China since the president took office Joe Biden in January 2021.
Last November, on the Indonesian island, Biden and Xi held their long-awaited first face-to-face talks behind the scenes the G20 summit. They then promised each other more frequent communication. While the meeting briefly eased fears of a new Cold War, a Chinese balloon flight over the United States a few months later escalated tensions, and high-level communication has been rare since then.
Over five hours of meeting Blinken with his Chinese counterpart
The chief of American diplomacy was welcomed in Beijing by Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang. State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said their meeting lasted five and a half hours and then went to a working dinner.
Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Hua Chunying, who attended the meeting, wrote under a Twitter photo of Qin and Blinken shaking hands: “I hope this meeting will help bring Sino-American relations back to what the two presidents agreed in Bali”.
During the visit, which will last until Monday, Blinken is also expected to meet with Wang Yi, director of the Bureau of the Central Commission on Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, and possibly President Xi Jinping.
Visit to ‘stop the downward spiral’
US officials and analysts expect Blinken’s visit to pave the way for more bilateral meetings between Washington and Beijing officials in the coming months, including possible trips to China by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo. It could also set the stage for Xi and Joe Biden to meet at multilateral summits later this year.
“Both sides agree that we need high-level channels of communication,” a senior State Department official who accompanied Blinken told reporters. ‘It’s important to reduce the risk of misjudgment, or as our Chinese friends say, to stop the downward spiral,’ he added. Reuters adds that the visit is closely followed around the world as any escalation of tensions between the two superpowers would have global negative repercussions, especially economic. The contentious list lists trade issues, U.S. efforts to stem the growth of China’s semiconductor industry, and violations by Beijing authorities human rights.
“Three main goals” of Biden’s visit
Speaking at a press conference on Friday before leaving for Beijing, Blinken said his trip would have “three main goals”: developing crisis management mechanisms, advancing the interests of the US and its allies in the region, and talking directly about related concerns, as well as exploring areas of potential cooperation.
He said he would also address the issue of US citizens held in China on what Washington believes are politically motivated.
Main photo source: REUTERS