Wang Yi, Beijing’s top foreign policy official, and Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken’s discussions served as a warm-up for their upcoming meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
On Monday in Beijing, Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Wang Yi, China’s senior diplomat. Credi..Leah Millis’s pool picture
On the second day of high-level diplomatic talks between the two governments in Beijing, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken met with Wang Yi, the top foreign policy representative in China, to repair communication channels that were damaged during a dispute over a Chinese spy balloon earlier this year.
The discussions that took place in the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse on a rainy morning served as a warm-up for Mr. Blinken’s anticipated afternoon meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Although the meeting has not been officially publicized by the two countries, American and Chinese officials have recently spoken positively about the preparations for it. The two days of diplomacy in Beijing, according to them, should ideally result in a number of upcoming trips to the Chinese capital by other cabinet-level American officials.
Since 2018, Mr. Blinken is the first American secretary of state to travel to Beijing. The initiatives to develop frequent top-level diplomacy are being made at a critical juncture in the tense relationship between the two countries. The United States and China’s bilateral ties are at their worst position in decades. When the Pentagon declared in February that a Chinese surveillance balloon was flying over the US mainland and then gave the go-ahead for American fighter aircraft to shoot it down, tensions were through the roof.
The day after the Pentagon revealed it had found the balloon, Mr. Blinken postponed a trip to Beijing. Hours before departing and as American senators expressed outrage about the balloon, Mr. Blinken made his decision. Chinese officials were outraged by this, claiming that the entire incident undid the progress that had been accomplished four months previously in Bali, Indonesia, when President Biden and Mr. Xi decided to try to normalize relations. The balloon was launched for weather research, according to Chinese officials, who have continued to claim that it floated off course.
When Mr. Blinken confronted Mr. Wang in February at the Munich Security Conference to inform him that Washington believed China was considering giving military backing to Russia for its war in Ukraine, relations became even more tense. In response, China froze some crucial diplomatic communications and stepped up its rhetoric against the United States.
On Monday, as the two men walked together down a hallway with a red carpet into a conference room, they acted politely. Representatives from the two countries sat at long tables facing one another, just like they did at Mr. Blinken’s five-and-a-half-hour discussion with Qin Gang, the Chinese foreign minister, on Sunday in the same statehouse complex.
According to readouts from each government and a briefing by State Department officials to reporters traveling with Mr. Blinken, Mr. Blinken, and Mr. Qin made progress towards restoring regular diplomacy during that Sunday meeting and a two-hour dinner, even though they spoke candidly about areas of contention in their relationship. The discussions were described as “candid, substantive, and constructive” in the department’s written summary.
On Sunday, Mr. Blinken had a lengthy five-hour meeting with Qin Gang, China’s foreign minister. Credit…Leah Millis’s pool picture
The American officials claimed that working groups and ambassadors from the two governments will soon meet to discuss a number of subjects, including granting more media, academics, and students access to each nation. The American officials added that they and their Chinese counterparts had decided to increase the number of direct commercial flights between their two countries.
The two days of meetings may stop the deterioration of relations. Analysts agree that more work is needed to help the two sides get over their mistrust, but they agree that making an effort to reestablish a foundation of high-level diplomacy is a worthwhile beginning.
Professor Jessica Chen Weiss of Cornell University, who has studied Chinese politics and most recently served as a China policy adviser in the State Department, emphasized that diplomacy is not a gift but rather an essential tool for comprehending the other side and resolving challenging problems. The absolute minimum required to lessen the rising danger of error and crisis is the re-establishment of communication lines.
The Biden administration’s attempts to set up “guardrails” to stop possible accidents in disputed regions like the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea from getting out of hand have been rejected by China. According to analysts, some Chinese authorities believe that the American notion that the Chinese military and administration may be unpredictable and have a rising appetite for risk serves as a valuable deterrent. The assumption is that the perception would prompt American leaders to reevaluate their military’s operations in the sky and on the seas surrounding China.
China has frequently attributed the deterioration in bilateral relations to the United States. Nothing infuriates Beijing more than the perception that Washington is increasing its support for Taiwan, a de facto sovereign island that is claimed by China. Beijing has also made an effort to counteract Washington’s attempts to limit its access to cutting-edge manufacturing tools and semiconductor chips by strengthening its defense connections with regional allies, including Japan, South Korea, Australia, and the Philippines.
According to analysts, China may have felt pressured for a variety of reasons to meet with Mr. Blinken. Due to China’s deteriorating economy, pressure may be increasing on Beijing to normalize relations. The United States and China have also received pleas from other nations to end the cycle of enmity. If Mr. Xi decides to attend the leaders’ meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation group of countries in San Francisco in November, he may have also wished to maintain the relationship so that he is viewed as a world statesman.
“China has been blaming the United States for everything that is wrong with the relationship and with China in general for the past few months. To shift towards more direct communication, China’s leaders must now clear out political space, according to Ryan Hass, a senior scholar at the Brookings Institution and former China director at the National Security Council under President Obama.
“Beijing sees it as being in its interest to communicate directly to manage stresses in the relationship and build an on-ramp for President Xi to meet with President Biden in the autumn,” Mr. Hass continued. reasons. Pressure may be mounting on Beijing to stabilize ties because of China’s worsening economy. Other countries have also been imploring China and the United States to break the cycle of hostility. Mr. Xi may have also wanted to steady the relationship so that he’s received like a global statesman if he chooses to attend a leaders’ summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation group of nations in San Francisco in November.
“China has spent the past several months blaming the United States for all that is wrong in the relationship and inside China more broadly. Now, China’s leaders need to carve out political space to pivot toward more direct communication,” said Ryan Hass, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who was a China director at the National Security Council under President Obama.“Beijing sees it as in its interest to communicate directly to manage stresses in the relationship and build an on-ramp for President Xi to meet with President Biden in the fall,” Mr. Hass added.
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