With Tensions High, Blinken Lands in China

He is the first US secretary of state in 5 years to make the trip
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 18, 2023 7:53 AM CDT
With Tensions High, Blinken Lands in China
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left, meets with Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang, right, at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, China, Sunday, June 18, 2023.   (Leah Millis/Pool Photo via AP)

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday kicked off two days of high-stakes diplomatic talks in Beijing aimed at trying to cool exploding US-China tensions, reports the AP. Blinken opened his program by meeting Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang for an extended discussion to be followed by a working dinner. He'll have additional talks with Qin, as well as top diplomat Wang Yi, and possibly President Xi Jinping, on Monday. Neither Blinken nor Qin made any substantive comments to reporters as they began the meeting at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse.

Prospects for any significant breakthroughs are slim, as already strained ties have grown increasingly fraught in recent years. A telling example: The Washington Post notes that in a phone call with Blinken just before his trip, Qin accused the US of "irresponsible bullying" and said the US was under the "illusion" it could deal with China from a "position of strength." He also warned Blinken to "show respect." Blinken is the highest-level American official to visit China since President Biden took office and the first secretary of state to make the trip in five years.

The list of disagreements and potential conflict points is long, including trade with Taiwan, human rights conditions in China and Hong Kong, Chinese military assertiveness in the South China Sea, and Russia's war in Ukraine. Blinken will also be pressing the Chinese to release detained American citizens and to take steps to curb the production and export of fentanyl precursors that are fueling the opioid crisis in the United States. Biden and Xi have made commitments to improve communications “precisely so that we can make sure we are communicating as clearly as possible to avoid possible misunderstandings and miscommunications,” Blinken said Friday.

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Xi offered a hint of a possible willingness to reduce tensions, saying in a meeting with Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates on Friday that the US and China can cooperate. “I believe that the foundation of Sino-US relations lies in the people,” Xi said to Gates. “Under the current world situation, we can carry out various activities that benefit our two countries, the people of our countries, and the entire human race.” Biden told White House reporters Saturday he was “hoping that over the next several months, I'll be meeting with Xi again and talking about legitimate differences we have, but also how ... to get along.” The Blinken trip was supposed to have happened in February, but it was scuttled by the discovery of what the US says was a Chinese spy balloon.

(More US-China relations stories.)

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