As Secretary of State Antony Blinken made a rare journey to Beijing, he held what authorities described as candid conversations on the escalating tensions. The two countries then decided to widen their dialogue in an effort to try to restore their relations from their record lows.
Blinken, the highest-ranking US official to visit Beijing in almost five years, had a seven and a half-hour conversation with his Chinese counterpart in an opulent state villa, an hour longer than anticipated, during which they also had a banquet supper.
On Monday, Blinken will conduct a second day of meetings and speak to the media before departing. On their first day together, he and Qin shook hands at the state guesthouse in front of their respective flags and a mural of rugged mountains and wispy clouds but said nothing.
According to state-run television CCTV, Qin informed Blinken that China-US relations “are at the lowest point since the establishment of diplomatic relations” in a private conversation.
During the negotiations at the historic Diaoyutai gardens, Qin stated, “This does not conform to the fundamental interests of the two peoples, nor does it meet the common expectations of the international community.”
However, he delivered a warning over Taiwan, the self-governing democracy that Beijing claims as its own. Since August, Beijing has twice conducted live-fire military drills close to the island in retaliation for moves taken by prominent US politicians.
The Taiwan problem, which is at the center of China‘s primary interests, is also the most significant risk to China-US relations, according to Qin.
Under the condition of anonymity, a senior US official said the conversations covered more ground than normal, including Taiwan.
He declared, “This was a real conversation.
Turning the page after the fight
Blinken had planned to go in February, but he unexpectedly canceled his trip after the US objected to and then shot down what it claimed to be a Chinese spy balloon above its territory.
As Blinken was traveling to China, US President Joe Biden downplayed the balloon incident, saying: “I don’t think anyone in authority knew where it was, knew what was in it, and knew what was going on.”
Biden told reporters on Saturday, “I think it was more embarrassing than it was intentional.”
After their extended and remarkably friendly encounter in November in Bali during a Group of 20 conference, where they decided on Biden’s visit, Biden said he wished to meet President Xi Jinping again.
In the coming months, Biden added, “I’m hoping to meet with Xi again and talk about legitimate differences we have but also how there are areas we can get along with.”
The next G20 meeting will take place in New Delhi in September, and the two presidents are expected to attend. Additionally, Xi has been asked to visit San Francisco in November, when the United States will be hosting the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.
Biden’s limitations on the transfer of expensive chips to China have particularly infuriated Beijing since the US is concerned about potential military uses and wants to stop the communist country from controlling the newest technologies.
According to an aide, Blinken is anticipated to pressure China to reduce precursor chemicals supplied to Latin America to create fentanyl, the potent opioid that is the cause of an addiction pandemic that claims tens of thousands of Americans each year.
Blinken’s visit is the first by a cabinet member since the United States accused Beijing of committing genocide against the predominantly Muslim Uyghur minority. Washington has also criticized China for its treatment of human rights.
Keeping close allies
Blinken spoke on the phone with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts during his 20-hour trans-Pacific flight as part of the Biden administration’s emphasis on maintaining good ties with allies. He also had a meeting with Singapore’s foreign minister in Washington before leaving.
Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser, traveled to Tokyo for separate trilateral talks with the Philippines, South Korea, and Japan.
The United States and two countries that are strategically near to Taiwan, southern Japan and the northern Philippines, have recently achieved agreements regarding troop deployments.
Since Mike Pompeo’s travel to Beijing in 2018, who later advocated for no-holds-barred conflict with China in the closing years of Donald Trump’s presidency, Blinken is the highest-ranking US ambassador to make the city his home.
In some areas—most notably with semiconductor sanctions—the Biden administration has gone further than Trump, but it has continued to be amenable to collaboration in others, like climate change.
According to experts, China views Biden as being more predictable than Trump, who is up for reelection in 2018.