BEIJING — US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will make his first trip to China as part of the Biden administration this weekend.
Blinken’s trip, which has been delayed by more than four months, is a rare high-level encounter between the United States and China during a time of heightened tension.
The discussions themselves are anticipated to produce nothing. However, Blinken’s travel to Beijing helps set the way for future encounters, including a possible one-on-one meeting between US President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping later this year.
Blinken’s travel to Beijing is a “potentially important turning point in the relationship,” according to Scott Kennedy, senior adviser and trustee chair in Chinese business and economics at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“Simply improving communication is a reasonable goal,” he added. “If [both sides] announce that the talks went well enough, they can schedule additional cabinet-level meetings.”
Due to the epidemic and political difficulties, communication and meetings between the United States and China have ceased in recent years.
According to the US Department of State, Blinken will meet with “senior [People’s Republic of China] officials where he will discuss the importance of maintaining open lines of communication to responsibly manage the U.S.-PRC relationship.”
Blinken “will also raise bilateral issues of concern, global and regional matters, and potential cooperation on shared transnational challenges,” said department spokesperson Matthew Miller in a statement.
The visit was confirmed by China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but no specifics on particular meetings were provided.
Expectations for a dramatic improvement in the US-China relationship remain low, particularly in light of Blinken’s planned trip.
“The goal is still to keep the relationship from deteriorating further, rather than articulating and agreeing on a shared vision for the future,” said Drew Thompson, a former US Defense Department official and current visiting senior research fellow at Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.
“We’ll compete where we can, and cooperate where we must,” Thompson added. “However, China does not view it that way. China sees political components of both rivalry and cooperation, and they are unwilling to collaborate if there is still an element of competition or if the US is politically confronting it.”
“As a result, I believe the administration’s goals are currently unrealistic due to the way Beijing has framed its interest in its strategy.”
Tensions are rising.
The world has been waiting for Blinken to reschedule his trip to China — and maybe assist stabilize the relationship between the two economic titans — for several months.
In February, the United States fired down an alleged Chinese surveillance balloon traveling over American airspace. Its emergence had caused Blinken to postpone his journey to Beijing indefinitely at the time. Beijing said the balloon was an unidentified weather tracker that strayed from its intended path.
In other news, the CEO of TikTok, which is owned by Chinese internet behemoth ByteDance, was interrogated in front of Congress in March over security concerns. China’s Foreign Ministry stated at the time that it “has never” and “will never” require enterprises to violate local laws by providing data located outside of China.
“The US government has provided no evidence or proof that TikTok threatens U.S. national security, yet it has repeatedly suppressed and attacked the company based on the presumption of guilt,” the ministry stated, according to a briefing transcript.
In May, China said that US chipmaker Micron had failed a security evaluation and barred critical infrastructure operators from purchasing from the business.
“The relationship has not been stable since February,” Kennedy stated. However, he said that the attitude in his hometown of Washington, D.C. is “not as dark as it had been” in February and March.
Tensions in Taiwan
Meanwhile, tensions in the South China Sea have remained high, and China’s military operations near Taiwan have done little to alleviate US fears. The US Indo-Pacific Command said earlier this month that a Chinese vessel got within 150 yards (137 meters) of a US destroyer in the Taiwan Strait.
Beijing believes Taiwan to be part of its territory, with no authority to conduct diplomatic relations independently. Although the United States acknowledges Beijing as China’s only government, it maintains unofficial relations with Taiwan, a democratically self-governed island.
“The United States must honor its commitment to the ‘One China’ policy,” said Jia Qingguo, a Peking University professor, on the sidelines of the Caixin New Asia Vision conference in Singapore on Tuesday.
“China, too, does not want any accidents between the two militaries,” Jia stressed.
A study reveals that being “out of date” on COVID-19 immunization is associated with a decreased risk of infection.
“It recognizes that, while there is a need for both countries to establish military guardrails, this is insufficient.” To avert hostility, the two nations should create equivalent safeguards for diplomacy and commercial interactions. This will limit reactionary behaviors and the likelihood of accidents.”
Among the numerous other causes of contention between the United States and China is Russia’s conflict in Ukraine, which Beijing has hesitated to name an invasion while urging for peace negotiations.
More US-China encounters are hoped expected.
Nonetheless, the two countries are each other’s greatest commercial partners in terms of products.
In May, China’s Commerce Minister Wang Wentao met with his American counterpart in Washington. In addition, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is scheduled to visit China on an unannounced date.
Looking ahead, Xi may pay a visit to the United States during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders’ Summit, which will be held in San Francisco in November.
Jia stated that while expectations for the outcomes of Blinken’s future talks with the Chinese should be kept low, it was critical that he attend.
“It is unusual for two of the world’s great powers to rely on top-level leadership to maintain ties.” It’s actually extremely dangerous.” Jia said. “As a result, it is critical that both countries increase their levels of exchange.”