Sunday marked the first trip of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to China, nearly five months after a significant rift in relations over a Chinese spy balloon.
The weather-monitoring balloon, which China claims was drifting across the United state continental shelf before being destroyed by American military aircraft, caused his initial trip to be abruptly canceled.
Mr. Blinken will meet with top Chinese officials in charge of foreign policy during his trip, but it is unclear if he will also meet Chinese President Xi Jinping, who appeared in Beijing on Friday along with Microsoft founder Bill Gates.
There is a long list of issues that the two global superpowers are concerned about, including potential areas of cooperation and prominent disagreements.
The following are three significant areas that may be prioritized.
The primary objective of Mr. Blinken’s visit is to reestablish all diplomatic interactions.
When senior United state officials met in Vienna, Austria, last month, the ice was first broken.
However, Mr. Blinken is the highest-ranking official from the Biden administration to visit China, and this is the first time a United state secretary of state has been to Beijing since October 2018.
In a pre-trip briefing, Kurt Campbell, Deputy Assistant to the President and Coordinator for Indo-Pacific Affairs, stated, “Now is a good time to be talking again because that in and of itself reduces the risk of conflict.”
“We can’t allow the disagreements that could divide us to stand in the way of moving forward on the global priorities that require us all to work together.”
However, the response from China to Blinken’s visit has been somewhat cold.
According to the official Chinese account of their conversation on Wednesday night, Mr. Blinken was told by Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang that “it is very clear who is to blame” for the recent deterioration in relations.
According to reports, Mr. Qin stated, “In the name of competition, the United States should respect China’s concerns, stop interfering in China’s internal affairs, and stop undermining China’s sovereignty, security, and development interests.”
The United States has minimized any significant announcements regarding this visit. It appears to be the as it were “deliverable” from the gatherings, in political speech, will be that the gatherings have occurred by any stretch of the imagination.
Daniel J. Kritenbrink, the senior East Asia diplomat for the State Department, stated, “Don’t expect some sort of breakthrough or transformation in the way that the two deal with one another.”
Assuming the gathering prompts further collaboration among US and Chinese authorities, that would be something the two sides could expand on.
2.Easing trade conflicts
The fact that President Biden has been unwilling to reverse trade measures implemented by his predecessor, Donald Trump, contributed to the rocky start to his relationship with China.
This includes import tariffs on Chinese-made goods worth billions of dollars.
In an effort to maintain the United States’ superiority in the most cutting-edge electronics technologies, Mr. Biden has squeezed even harder in some areas, imposing restrictions on the export of US computer chips to China.
In response, China imposed its own ban on computer memory chips manufactured by Micron, the largest manufacturer in the United States.
While acknowledging China’s concerns, Mr. Campbell stated that the United States would defend and explain what it has done thus far and what might come next.
The illegal drug trade may offer more room for cooperation if computer technology is a field where the two superpowers will compete fiercely.
The United States of America wants to restrict the export of chemical components made in China that are used to make fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is ten times more potent than heroin.
Over the past seven years, the rate of fentanyl-related drug overdose deaths in the United States has more than tripled.
Mr. Kritenbrink stated, “This is an absolutely critical and urgent issue for the United States,” but it comes with its own difficulties.
China was thought to be considering sending weapons to Russia following the balloon incident, where they would be immediately put to use in the war against Ukraine.
Recently, US officials have backed off from those accusations, putting an end to what could have been a particularly contentious issue between the two countries that could have turned the Ukraine-Russia conflict into a China-US proxy war.
However, Mr. Blinken is likely to reiterate the Chinese in Vienna’s warnings that China’s financial and military support for Russia would have serious repercussions.
Over the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea, warships from the United States and China have been engaged in a high-stakes game of chicken. While the United States maintains that they are international waters, China claims the region as their own.
It has been stated by Mr. Blinken and his diplomatic team that the purpose of this trip is to “de-risk” the tensions, and rekindling communication is the first step.
As the 2024 presidential elections get closer, anti-China rhetoric in Washington is sure to heat up, making it more difficult for Mr. Biden to achieve more extensive cooperation.
For both sides, this trip might just result in the opening of channels of communication that prevent an incident from turning into a military conflict.