Following US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s two-day visit to Beijing, the US and China have vowed to calm their hostile ties.
Monday’s meeting between Mr. Blinken and President Xi Jinping of China reopened high-level dialogue between the rival superpowers.
Mr. Blinken added that both parties were willing to continue talking while Mr. Xi claimed that they had made progress.
But the top US official made it clear that significant divisions continued to exist.
“I stressed that… sustained communication at senior levels is the best way to responsibly manage differences and ensure that competition does not veer into conflict,” Mr. Blinken told reporters following the 35-minute meeting at the Great Hall of the People on Tiananmen Square.
He stated, “I heard the same from my Chinese counterparts. “We both agree that stabilizing our relationship is necessary.”
Although there are “many issues on which we profoundly, even vehemently disagree,” Mr. Blinken, 61, claimed to be “clear-eyed” regarding China.
Beijing’s strong claims over Taiwan, the trade war under Trump, and the shooting down of a suspected Chinese spy balloon over the US earlier this year all contributed to the deterioration of relations between Beijing and Washington.
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The visit by Mr. Blinken marks the first by a senior US diplomat in over five years.
The American fentanyl epidemic, Taiwan, North Korea, and alleged human rights violations by China were all topics of conversation between him and Mr. Xi, according to the US state department.
And even though there were no obvious victories, Mr. Xi signaled that things might be improving.
According to a translation of his statements made public by the US state department, “the two sides have also made progress and reached agreement on some specific issues.” This is excellent.
The meeting with Mr. Xi was unexpected and only made public an hour prior to the scheduled time.
But if it hadn’t, it would have been widely perceived as a snub, especially after Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates met Mr. Xi in Beijing earlier this week.
Instead, after months of tense ties, the Americans will be able to point to the secretary’s visit, which also featured discussions with Wang Yi, China’s top diplomat, and Qin Gang, its foreign minister, as a successful reengagement with the Chinese government.
Chinese authorities and US President Joe Biden have stated that they see the US as a competitor rather than an enemy. However, when the competition – both militarily and economically – heats up, it is a narrow line to walk.
Mr. Xi was also communicating to his own people that his government was reaching out to Washington with the summit.
The largest point of concern between the two nations and the one with the greatest chance of escalation is Taiwan.
China views Taiwan, which is self-governing, as a breakaway province, and Mr. Xi has stated that during his presidency, he wants to reunite Taiwan with Beijing.
Taiwan, with its own leaders and constitution, perceives itself as different from the Chinese mainland. Beijing criticized US Vice President Joe Biden’s declaration last year that the US would defend Taiwan in the case of a Chinese invasion.
However, Mr. Blinken reiterated on Monday that Washington does not want Taiwan’s independence, and he also said he wanted to “disabuse” China of the idea that the US is “seeking to economically contain them.”
He claimed China also provided some assurances. Again emphasizing that it would not provide Russia with lethal assistance for use in Ukraine, it raised concerns about private Chinese enterprises assisting Russia’s military, which were shared by Mr. Blinken.
China, however, rejected a US proposal to reopen lines of contact between the militaries of the two nations, which was a major goal of the negotiations.
While the trip didn’t result in much progress, as was predicted, Mr. Blinken said he hoped it meant greater communication going forward at the end of his news conference.
Progress is difficult. It requires time. And it’s not the result of just one encounter, journey, or discussion,” he added.