Xi, Blinken agree to stabilize US-China relations in Beijing talks

  • The first meeting of its kind since 2018 aimed at conflict management
  • Xi says great powers can overcome difficulties
  • Linkin welcomes ‘frank and constructive’ conversations
  • It could pave the way for a Xi-Biden summit, world watching

BEIJING (Reuters) – China and the United States agreed on Monday to stabilize their bitter rivalry so that it does not devolve into conflict, but failed to make any significant progress during a rare visit to Beijing by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Chinese President Xi Jinping welcomed “progress” after shaking hands with Blinken at the Great Hall of the People, a large venue usually reserved for greeting heads of state.

Both the US top diplomat and Xi stressed the importance of a more stable relationship, as any conflict between the world’s two largest economies would lead to global turmoil.

However, China refused to accept Washington’s attempt to resume military communication channels, and viewed US sanctions as the obstacle. Both sides appeared steadfast in their positions on everything from Taiwan to trade, including US actions toward China’s chip industry, human rights and Russia’s war against Ukraine.

In one of the most significant exchanges between the US and China since President Joe Biden took office, it was not clear how they would bridge their differences, but they agreed to continue their diplomatic engagements with more visits in the coming weeks and months.

At a news conference that concluded his two-day trip to Beijing, the first by a US secretary of state since 2018, Blinken said Washington had achieved its goals for the trip, including raising its concerns directly, and trying to create channels for dialogue and exploration. Areas of cooperation. The flight was delayed in February after a suspected Chinese spy balloon flew over US airspace.

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But he said progress has not been easy.

“The relationship was in a phase of instability, and both sides recognized the need to work to stabilize it,” Blinken said before leaving the country.

“But progress is hard. It takes time. And it’s not the product of one visit, or one trip, or one conversation. My hope and expectation is this: We’ll have better communications, better engagement going forward.”

US officials have played down the possibility of a major breakthrough in the talks, but hope Blinken’s visit will pave the way for more bilateral meetings in the coming months, including possible trips by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.

It was hoped that this would pave the way for a summit between Xi and Biden later in the year.

Biden and Xi last met on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, in November, and pledged more frequent contacts, though relations have soured since then over Taiwan, spying accusations and other concerns.

“The two sides also made progress and reached agreement on some specific issues. This is very good,” Xi told Blinken across a long table decorated with pink lotus flowers.

Blinken responded by saying that the two countries have a responsibility to manage their relationship and that the United States is “committed to doing so.”

Blinken added that his meetings in Beijing, including talks with China’s top diplomat Wang Yi and Foreign Minister Chen Gang, were “frank and constructive.”

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It was not clear from Xi’s comments what progress he was referring to, though he did tell Blinken that China “hopes to see a sound and steady relationship between China and the United States” and believes the two countries “can overcome various difficulties,” according to one Chinese. Conversations readings.

He also urged the US not to “harm China’s legitimate rights and interests,” referring to potential flashpoints such as Taiwan, the democratic island that Beijing claims as its own.

The US State Department said Blinken raised contentious issues such as Taiwan, human rights, North Korea’s provocations and US concerns about Beijing’s intelligence activities in Cuba.

Taiwan’s core issue

The lack of open channels of communication between the two countries has fueled tensions around the world, and Beijing’s reluctance to engage in regular military talks with Washington has alarmed China’s neighbours.

Speaking to reporters after the talks, senior foreign ministry official Yang Tao said the US sanctions are hampering progress in improving communications between the two militaries.

And Chinese Defense Minister Li Changfu, who took over in March, has been sanctioned since 2018 over the purchase of fighter jets and equipment from Rosoboronexport, Russia’s largest arms exporter.

Asked about the specific progress made by the two sides, Yang said they agreed to prevent a downward spiral in relations. The official added that Chinese Foreign Minister Chen accepted Blinken’s request to visit the United States.

Analysts said Xi’s remarks and diplomatic dancing of the visit appeared to indicate a desire for progress.

“The Chinese messages are very positive,” said Wu Xinbo, professor and director at the Center for American Studies at Fudan University in Shanghai.

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“China has shown that it still hopes to work with the United States to stabilize and improve relations. I think that while China is not optimistic about China-US relations, it has not lost hope either.”

Beijing’s tone on Taiwan was particularly specific during Blinken’s visit.

“China has no room for compromise or concessions,” Wang said, according to the Chinese statement.

The United States has long adhered to a policy of “strategic ambiguity” over whether to respond militarily to an attack on Taiwan, which Beijing has refused to rule out.

Coverage by Humeyra Pamuk in Beijing. Additional reporting by Jason Zhieu in Shanghai, Sophie Yu, Yu Lun Tian, ​​Dominic Button and Joe Cash in Beijing, and Jenny Kao and Ben Blanchard in Taipei; Writing by Humeyra Pamuk, John Geddy, and Doina Chiacou; Editing by Simon Cameron Moore, Andrew Heavens and Lisa Shumaker

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Humera Pamuk

Thomson Reuters

Hamira Pamuk is a senior foreign policy correspondent based in Washington, DC. She covers the US State Department, and travels regularly with the US Secretary of State. In her 20 years with Reuters, she has had posts in London, Dubai, Cairo and Turkey, covering everything from the Arab Spring and the civil war in Syria to several Turkish elections and the Kurdish insurgency in the Southeast. In 2017, she won the Knight-Bagehot Fellowship Program at Columbia University School of Journalism. She holds a BA in International Relations and an MA in European Union Studies.

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