Blinken arrives in Beijing amid major diplomatic tensions with China
Foreign Minister Antony Blinken arrived in Beijing early Sundayto try to cool the exploding US-China relationship which have upset many people around the world.
Blinken was due to begin two-day talks with senior Chinese officials in the afternoon. He is the highest-ranking American official to visit China since President Biden took office and the first Secretary of State to make the trip in five years.
The trip comes after he postponed plans to visit in February after a plane was shot downover the US
Still, the prospects for a meaningful breakthrough on the most difficult issues facing the world’s two largest economies are slim as relations have already grown strained in recent years. Hostilities and allegations have steadily escalated over a series of disagreements that impact global security and stability.
According to US officials, Blinken plans to meet with Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang on Sunday, top diplomat Wang Yi and possibly President Xi Jinping on Monday.
At a meeting in Bali last year, Biden and Xi reached early agreement on Blinken’s journey. It happened just a day after February but was delayed by the diplomatic and political uproar sparked by the discovery of a downed Chinese spy balloon that the US said was flying over the United States.
The list of differences of opinion and potential points of conflict is long: it ranges from trade with Taiwan to the human rights situation in China to Hong Kong and China’s military assertiveness in the South China Sea to Russia’s war in Ukraine.
US officials said ahead of Blinken’s departure from Washington on Friday that he would raise each and every one of them, though neither side has shown any inclination to relinquish their positions.
Shortly before his departure, Blinken stressed the importance of the US and China building and maintaining better lines of communication. The US wants to make sure “that the competition we have with China doesn’t come into conflict because of avoidable misunderstandings,” he told reporters.
Biden and Xi have pledged to improve communications “precisely to ensure we communicate as clearly as possible to avoid potential misunderstandings and miscommunications,” Blinken said Friday.
Hinting a possible willingness to ease tensions, Xi said in a meeting with Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates on Friday that the United States and China could work together for the “benefit of both our countries.”
“I believe that the basis of Sino-US relations lies in the people,” Xi told Gates. “Under the current world situation, we can carry out various activities that benefit our two countries, the people of our countries and the whole of humanity.”
Biden told White House reporters Saturday he hopes to “get back together with Xi over the next few months and talk about legitimate differences that we have, but also how … we get along.”
Opportunities could arise at a meeting of the 20 leaders in New Delhi in September and at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in San Francisco in November, hosted by the United States.
There have been a number of high-profile appointments since Blinken’s trip was canceled in February. CIA chief William Burnswhile China’s trade minister traveled to the US and Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan met with Yi in Vienna in May.
These were punctuated, however, by outbursts of angry cross-strait rhetoric on both sides, their broader intentions in the Indo-Pacific, China’s refusal to condemn Russia for its war on Ukraine, and US accusations from Washington that Beijing is trying to increase its global surveillance capabilities ,.
And earlier this month, China’s defense minister turned down a request from US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to meet on the sidelines of a security symposium in Singapore, a sign of ongoing dissatisfaction.
Austin said Friday he was confident he and his Chinese counterpart would “meet eventually, but we’re not there yet.”
To underscore the situation, China dismissed a report by a US security firm blaming China-linked hackers for attacks on hundreds of public facilities, schools and other targets around the world as “far-fetched and unprofessional.”
A spokesman for China’s foreign ministry repeated allegations that Washington was conducting hacking attacks and lamented that the cybersecurity industry rarely reports on them.
This was followed by a similar retaliation earlier this week, when China said Qin in a phone call with Blinken urged the United States to “respect China’s core concerns” such as the issue of Taiwan self-government and “stop interfering in China’s internal affairs.” and stop harming China’s sovereignty, security and development interests in the name of competition.”
Meanwhile, the national security advisers of the United States, Japan and the Philippines held their first joint talks on Friday and agreed to step up their defense cooperation, also to counter China’s growing influence and ambitions.
This coincides with the signing of an agreement between the Biden government and Australia and Britain to provide nuclear-powered submarines, with China rapidly expanding its diplomatic presence, particularly in the Indian Ocean and Pacific Island nations where it has or has opened plans to open at least five new embassies in the next year.
The deal is part of an 18-month-old nuclear partnership, acronym AUKUS – for Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States.
In a speech ahead of Blinken’s departure, two US officials downplayed hopes for major advances, stressing that the trip was meant to restore a sense of calm and normalcy to high-level contacts.
“We come to Beijing with a realistic, confident approach and a genuine desire to face our competition as responsibly as possible,” said Daniel Kritenbrink, the senior U.S. diplomat for East Asia and the Pacific.
Kurt Campbell, senior Asia expert at the National Security Council, said: “Intense competition requires intense diplomacy if we are to manage tensions. This is the only way we can eliminate misjudgments, set signals, communicate and work together there.” and if our interests match.
Before leaving on Friday, Blinken also said he would personally raise the Americans’ casesin China.
The State Department believes three US citizens are wrongly being held there, including 48-year-old Mark Swidan, a Texas businessman who is on death row and has been jailed since 2012 on drug trafficking charges he denied.
The other two men are 67-year-old David Lin, a pastor imprisoned in China since 2006, and Kai Li, 60, who has been imprisoned since 2016.