Blinken in Beijing on high-stakes mission to cool down tensions

Picture source - AP
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Antony Blinken, the US Secretary of State, arrived in Beijing on Sunday intending to repair the strained relationship between the United States and China, despite several disagreements on international issues. This marks the first visit by a senior US official to China in nearly five years.

Originally scheduled for February, the trip was delayed after the US claimed that a suspected Chinese balloon had entered US airspace. It is also the first visit to China by a top US official since the Biden administration assumed office in 2021.

Upon arrival, Blinken was received by Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang at the door of a villa on the grounds of Beijing’s Diaoyutai State Guest House, deviating from the customary practice of meeting inside the building. The two engaged in small talk as they walked in, with Qin asking Blinken about his journey from Washington. They then shook hands in front of Chinese and American flags.

Hua Chunying, the Chinese assistant foreign minister who attended the meeting, expressed hope in a tweet that the meeting would steer China-US relations back to what the two Presidents had agreed upon in Bali.

In November, President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping held their first in-person talks during a summit of the Group of 20 major economies in Bali, where they had frank discussions about Taiwan and North Korea, while also pledging more frequent communication.

During his visit, Blinken is expected to meet with China’s top diplomat Wang Yi and possibly President Xi, to establish reliable communication channels and prevent the bilateral competition between the world’s two largest economies from escalating into a conflict.

The outcome of Blinken’s trip carries significant weight, as it could pave the way for future visits by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo in the coming months. It is also anticipated that this visit will set the groundwork for a bilateral meeting between President Xi and President Biden at multilateral summits later in the year.

President Biden expressed his hope on Saturday to meet with President Xi in the next few months.

The international community is closely watching Blinken’s visit, as any disagreements on key issues could have an impact on global economic and financial markets, as well as supply chain routes.

A senior State Department official, speaking in Tokyo, highlighted the importance of establishing senior-level channels of communication between the US and China. They emphasized the need to reduce the risk of miscalculation and halt the downward spiral in the relationship, a sentiment echoed by their Chinese counterparts.