Diplomatic Talks with China
On the final day of his rare visit to Beijing, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken engaged in discussions with China's top diplomat Wang Yi, focusing on sensitive issues like Taiwan, in an effort to prevent escalating tensions between the two rival powers from spiraling into conflict.
- This visit marks the first time in five years that a U.S. secretary of state has traveled to China. The meeting between Blinken and Wang took place at the Diaoyutai state guest house in Beijing and lasted approximately three hours, as confirmed by State Department officials.
- During the discussions, Wang described the current state of U.S.-China relations as being at a low point, attributing it to the United States' misguided perception of China.
- Wang emphasized the need for a responsible attitude towards people, history, and the world, calling for a reversal of the downward spiral in relations, according to a statement released by China's foreign ministry.
A day prior to the meeting with Wang, Blinken engaged in a 7-1/2-hour discussion with Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang. Both sets of talks were described by Washington as "candid" and "constructive".
- While the talks between Blinken and Qin Gang on Sunday showed limited concrete progress on various disputes, including Taiwan, trade, human rights, the control of synthetic opioid fentanyl and its precursor chemicals from China, and differing viewpoints on the war in Ukraine, both sides stressed the importance of reducing the risk of misperception and miscalculation.
- Efforts to enhance ease of travel for citizens were also highlighted, with agreements to work towards increasing passenger flights, which positively impacted Chinese airline shares. Both parties expressed a desire to stabilize bilateral ties despite their profound differences. Qin's visit to Washington to continue the dialogue was agreed upon, although no specific date was announced.
A senior State Department official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, emphasized that the process of diplomacy would be sustained.
The Xi - Blinken Meeting
During his two-day visit, Blinken's surprise meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping lasted 35 minutes, marking the highest-level visit by an American official to China in nearly five years. When asked about the progress achieved in the Blinken-Xi meeting, President Biden stated, “You don’t have to ask that. You can ask how much progress was made.”
- Notably, both Biden and Xi acknowledged the progress made during the talks. Xi stated in a video broadcast by Chinese state-owned media CCTV, "The two sides have agreed to follow through the common understanding President Biden and I had reached in Bali," While specific details were not disclosed, Xi expressed satisfaction with the overall outcome, deeming it highly beneficial.
- Xi emphasized the importance of maintaining stable relations between the two economic powerhouses, highlighting the global significance of their partnership. Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department characterized the discussions as frank, substantive, and productive.
Furthermore, Blinken's visit has opened the door for a potential meeting between President Biden and President Xi in November. "Both sides agreed on follow-on senior engagements in Washington and Beijing to continue open lines of communication," stated the State Department.
Biden's Words For Xi
U.S. officials have downplayed the prospect of major breakthroughs in the talks. However, they and analysts expect Blinken's visit to lay the groundwork for further bilateral meetings in the coming months, including possible visits by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo. Additionally, the visit could set the stage for talks between President Xi and President Biden at multilateral summits later in the year.
- However, U.S. President Joe Biden did not mince words when referring to Chinese President Xi Jinping, characterizing him as a dictator.
- “The reason why Xi Jinping got very upset in terms of when I shot that balloon down with two box cars full of spy equipment is he didn’t know it was there, [...] That was the great embarrassment for dictators, when they didn’t know what happened. That wasn’t supposed to be going where it was,” U.S. President Joe Biden
This highlights the delicate tightrope Biden must walk in managing relations with an assertive global rival while simultaneously appealing to his domestic audience as he gears up for potential re-election.
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