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APRNEWS : Blinken meets China’s Xi Jinping amid effort to ease tensions

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left, meets with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, center, and Wang Yi, Chinese Communist Party's foreign policy chief, in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Monday. (Leah Millis/AP)
Monday, 19 June 2023

APRNEWS : Blinken meets China’s Xi Jinping amid effort to ease tensions

APRNEWS - Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Chinese leader Xi Jinping on Monday, capping a string of discussions aimed at lowering tensions between the two superpowers while leaving unresolved their most bitterly contested issues.

APRNEWS - Still, the 35-minute-long meeting was the culmination of more than 10 collective hours of meetings Blinken held with Wang Yi, China’s top foreign policy official and Foreign Minister Qin Gang, and may at least stop the downward spiral in bilateral relations.

Xi told Blinken that China “respects the interests of the United States and will not challenge or replace the United States,” and that Washington “must also respect China and not harm China’s legitimate rights and interests,” according to a readout released by the official state broadcaster CCTV.

Xi made similar remarks in November following a meeting with Biden in Bali on the sidelines of the G-20 summit, which the Chinese leader also referred to Monday as the basis of the countries’ relationship.

Neither party can shape the other according to its own wishes, let alone deprive the other of its legitimate right to development, the readout added.

In an earlier statement, Xi was reported to have told the U.S. delegation that “the two sides have also made progress and reached agreement on some specific issues, and this is very good,” Xi told the American delegation.

It has been customary in the past for the Chinese leader to meet with visiting U.S. secretaries of state, but Monday’s meeting wasn’t confirmed until 45 minutes before the two men shook hands — a sign of how carefully orchestrated this trip has been.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with Chinese leader Xi Jinping in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Monday. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

The two sides have left very little to chance during Blinken’s two-day visit, keeping core disagreements — on human rights, trade and dangerous military encounters in the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait — away from the cameras.

The meeting followed a careful encounter between Blinken and Wang earlier on Monday, where the two tight-lipped officials greeted each other in a highly formal exchange before closed-door talks that lasted more than three hours.

The two had a “candid and productive discussion,” with Blinken underscoring “the importance of responsibly managing the competition between the United States and [China] through open channels of communication to ensure competition does not veer into conflict,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said in a statement.

“The Secretary reiterated that the United States will continue to use diplomacy to raise areas of concern and stand up for the interests and values of the American people,” Miller said.

For his part, Wang told Blinken the U.S. needed to “reflect deeply” and work with China to avoid “strategic surprises,” according to China’s Foreign Ministry.

“We must reverse the downward spiral of Sino-U. S. relations, push for a return to a healthy and stable track, and work together to find a correct way for China and the United States to get along in the new era,” Wang said, according to the readout.

The two sides must “make a choice between dialogue or confrontation, cooperation or conflict,” said Wang. He asked Washington to lift sanctions against China and to stop “hyping up” the “China threat theory.”

The emphasis on dialogue was a significant departure in tone from Beijing’s previous stance that the blame for the negative state of relations lay entirely with Washington.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, on Monday. (Leah Millis/AP)

“Both sides know that Sino-U. S. relations need to return to normal,” said Zhu Feng, dean of the Institute of International Studies at Nanjing University. “A relationship between major countries requires competition, cooperation and dialogue — it must be interactive.”

However, Zhu didn’t think the Biden administration would really divert its course from suppressing China.

“China can still use this opportunity to express that if the U.S. cannot effectively respond to its concerns, then of course China cannot effectively respond to [theirs],” he said.

Still, the change in tone between the two sides over the past two days has been striking.

Chinese state media, after having castigated Blinken as a meddling provocateur, cast the visit in a favorable light. Sunday’s talks had brought “positive expectations to the international community,” said an editorial in the Global Times, a nationalist tabloid affiliated with the Chinese Communist Party.

Relations between Washington and Beijing had been at their worst since the establishment of diplomatic ties, multiple outlets pointed out, but that provided an opportunity for improvement, they said.

“The whole world is watching to find clues about whether the relationship between the two countries can thaw,” said the Global Times.

Yet concerns remain that Washington will simply continue what Beijing perceives as a strategy to contain China and suppress its development.

On social media, people questioned whether Washington was capable of keeping its promises. Popular current affairs blogger Hang Ziya wrote in a since-deleted post that Blinken had visited China “to get an official certificate of divorce, not to make the relationship work again.”

One area where Beijing had no room for compromise was the issue of Taiwan, the island democracy that China claims as part of its territory.

Blinken meets with Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse on Sunday. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

Monday’s discussions build on the modest gains of Sunday, when Blinken and Qin agreed to meet again — in Washington — and to hold “working-level” meetings to address specific challenges in the weeks ahead.

Qin added that the two nations discussed increasing passenger flights between China and the United States, and encouraging the exchange of more students, scholars and businesspeople. U.S. officials have also worked on increasing journalist visas for media seeking to cover the two countries.

U.S. officials spoke far more favorably about Sunday’s discussions than they did during meetings with Chinese counterparts on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference in February.

During those meetings, Washington angered Beijing after airing U.S. concerns about China considering providing lethal aid to Russia. Relations dipped further when the United States shot down a high-altitude surveillance balloon that crossed into U.S. airspace and canceled Blinken’s originally scheduled trip.

But a senior State Department official said the United States and China made “progress” on Washington’s three key objectives during this trip to Beijing: reestablishing senior-level communications, airing concerns and exploring areas for cooperation.

The talks are likely to pave the way for follow-on visits to China by Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen — a visit sought by Beijing, which is hoping to boost investment amid an economic downturn — and potentially Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and climate envoy John F. Kerry.

President Biden on Saturday said he hoped to meet Xi in coming months to discuss the issues that divide the two.

Xi might attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in November in San Francisco, where he could meet with Biden. Their last meeting last November on the sidelines of the Group of 20 Summit in Bali, Indonesia, helped ease tensions.

Amid the efforts to show progress in Beijing, however, U.S. officials declined to confirm any movement on reopening of military-to-military communications, a key priority going into the meetings given the multiple dangerous close calls in recent months. These include a near-collision of warships near Taiwan and an aggressive fighter jet flyby over the South China Sea.

Beijing sees the resumption of such channels as potentially legitimizing U.S. military activity targeting China.

Chinese officials emphasized that key sticking points remain unresolved, like U.S. military assistance to Taiwan, which it considers a violation of its sovereignty, and U.S. export controls on technology, measures it considers a sign of trying to keep China weak.

But they also underscored a desire to turn a new page, saying the current state of relations “does not serve the fundamental interests of the two peoples or meet the shared expectations of the international community,” according to the Foreign Ministry.

Blinken’s agenda on Monday included meetings with U.S. business leaders in the health-care, automotive and entertainment sectors about the state of the business climate in China. He is also meeting with students and alumni of exchange programs, which have reduced sharply since the recent downturn in ties between the United States and China.

Source : the washingtonPost