Beijing: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken held a meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang in Beijing, marking the highest-level visit by a US official to China in nearly five years, according to a report by Al Jazeera. The objective of the visit, as reported by Al Jazeera, is to promote stability in the relationship between the two powerful nations.
Blinken’s two-day visit to Beijing takes place amidst strained bilateral ties and follows the earlier postponement of the trip due to the discovery of a suspected surveillance balloon above the US in February.
Although China and the US have expressed their desire to enhance communication, they have downplayed the likelihood of a major breakthrough in their discussions.
US President Joe Biden downplayed the significance of the balloon issue as Blinken headed to China, stating to reporters on Saturday, “I don’t think the leadership knew where it was and knew what was in it and knew what was going on. I think it was more embarrassing than it was intentional.”
Biden also expressed his hope to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping again, following their extensive meeting in November on the sidelines of a G20 summit in Bali, as reported by Al Jazeera. “I’m hoping that, over the next several months, I’ll be meeting with Xi again and talking about legitimate differences we have but also how there are areas we can get along,” Biden stated.
The two leaders are expected to attend the upcoming G20 summit in Delhi in September. Furthermore, Chinese President Xi Jinping received an invitation to visit San Francisco in November when the US hosted leaders from the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) grouping, according to Al Jazeera.
During his visit, Blinken is scheduled to meet with high-ranking Chinese officials and attend a banquet at the state guesthouse in the Diaoyutai Gardens. A phone call between Blinken and his Chinese counterpart Qin Gang highlighted the growing tensions between the two sides.
Reporting live from Beijing, Al Jazeera’s Katrine Yu stated, “Beijing is seeking assurances from the US that it will not interfere in its domestic affairs and cross the red lines related to its core interests, particularly Taiwan.”
However, expectations of any major breakthrough from the visit are low, Yu added. “But that doesn’t mean it is not significant, especially as China’s neighbouring countries are deeply concerned that the deteriorating relationship could escalate into open conflict,” Yu commented.
Before departing for Beijing, Blinken outlined three main objectives for his trip during a press conference. These include establishing crisis management mechanisms, advancing the interests of the US and its allies, addressing concerns directly, and exploring potential areas of cooperation, as reported by Al Jazeera.
“As we strive to ensure that our competition with China does not turn into conflict, the starting point is communication,” Blinken stated.
Prior to his departure, Blinken also met with his Singaporean counterpart, a US ally, in Washington. Singapore’s Foreign Minister, Vivian Balakrishnan, expressed the hope that the US would continue to be a global power while finding ways to coexist with a rising China.
While acknowledging the importance of Blinken’s visit, Balakrishnan remarked, “The trip is essential, but not sufficient.”