Anthony Blinken in Beijing | “The world expects the US and China to cooperate”

(Beijing) US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Beijing on Sunday, the highest-level visit by a US diplomat in nearly five years, in an effort to ease bilateral tensions.

While no one expects much progress since there are many areas of friction, the idea remains to start a diplomatic thaw and maintain dialogue to “responsibly manage Sino-US relations,” according to the State Department.

Because time is running out. Next year will be a deadline for elections in both the United States and Taiwan, which China considers one of its provinces to be reunited, by force if necessary.

And trivial things can change things: Thus, the visit of the head of US diplomacy was initially scheduled for February, following the meeting, last November, between US President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, on the sidelines of the G20 summit meeting in Indonesia.

But it was canceled at the last minute. Question: A Chinese balloon flew over American territory, which Washington accused of being a “spy” plane, while Beijing confirmed that it was a meteorological machine that deviated from its course.

With Mr. Blinken headed to China, US President Joe Biden has downplayed this latest episode. “I don’t think the leaders knew where it was, what was in it, what was going on,” he told reporters on Saturday.

“I think it was more embarrassing than intentional,” he added.

He also said he hopes to meet again with President Xi Jinping “in the coming months” to “talk about our legitimate differences, but also about areas where we can agree.” millimeter. Biden and Xi had a surprisingly long and cordial meeting in November 2022, on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Bali.

“Challenge of the Century”

Speaking in Washington before leaving, Anthony Blinken wanted to be somewhat optimistic.

He said this two-day trip should “open direct lines of communication so that our two countries can responsibly manage our relationship, including by addressing some of the challenges and misperceptions and avoiding miscalculations.”

He added, “Intense competition requires continued diplomacy to ensure that it does not turn into confrontation or conflict,” as “the world expects the cooperation of the United States and China.”

Among the main disputes are trade and the self-governing democratic island of Taiwan, which Beijing has not ruled out taking by force.

Prior to Blinken’s visit, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said the United States should “respect China’s core concerns” and work with Beijing.

The United States must abandon the illusion of dealing with China “from a position of strength.” He said China and the United States should develop relations on the basis of mutual respect and equality, and respect their differences.

“start a conversation”

Mr. Blinken’s visit is the first by a US secretary of state to China since the October 2018 trip of his predecessor, Mike Pompeo, who then masterminded confrontational strategy with Beijing in the final years of Donald Trump’s presidency.

Since then, the Biden administration has maintained that hard line, going further in some areas, including by imposing export controls to curb Beijing’s purchase and manufacture of advanced chips “for military applications.”

But it wants to cooperate with China on key issues such as climate. Mr Blinken’s visit also comes as part of a heatwave in China, with a new mid-June temperature record crossed on Friday in Beijing, at 39.4C.

For Danny Russell, a former senior US State Department official, each side has an interest in this visit: China hopes to sidestep new US restrictions on technology and any new support for Taiwan. On the other hand, the United States would like to prevent any incident that could lead to a military confrontation.

Mr. Blinken’s short visit will not solve any of the big problems in the US-China relationship, or even necessarily the small ones. Nor will it prevent the two parties from pursuing their own competitive agendas, said Mr. Russell, vice president of the Asian Society Policy Institute in New York.

“But his visit could revive much-needed face-to-face dialogue and send a signal that the two countries are moving from angry rhetoric in the media to more sober talks behind closed doors.”

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