Blinken is in Beijing hoping to ease some tension

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

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

France Press agency

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

And a trifle 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 in Indonesia.

But it was canceled at the last minute. In question: the overflight of American soil by a Chinese airship, which Washington accused of being a “spy” aircraft, while Beijing asserted that it was a meteorological machine that had derailed.

Blinken is in Beijing hoping to ease some tension

France Press agency

Cautious optimism

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

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

He added that “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.”

Mr Blinken was speaking at a news conference alongside his Singaporean counterpart, Vivian Balakrishnan.

The latter has called the Sino-American relationship the “challenge of the century”: “The rest of the world will be watching. We hope, and I believe, that you will be able to manage your differences.

The main point of friction between the two powers: Taiwan. Beijing carried out historic military maneuvers there in August, in response to the visit of Nancy Pelosi, then House Leader, as part of an Asian tour.

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.

Blinken is in Beijing hoping to ease some tension

France Press agency


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 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 record temperature for mid-June in Beijing hitting 39.4C on Friday.

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 may revive much-needed direct dialogue and send a signal that the two countries are moving from angry rhetoric in the face of the media to more sober talks behind closed doors.”

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