Antony Blinken’s Visit to China: A Step Towards Communication and Cooperation.
Antony Blinken, a prominent US diplomat, is scheduled to visit China this week, marking a highly anticipated trip that was initially postponed in February due to escalating tensions between the two countries. As part of his visit, Blinken will also make a stop in London. During his time in Beijing, he plans to engage in discussions with senior Chinese officials regarding the significance of maintaining open lines of communication between the United States and China. Although the statement does not specify the officials involved, Blinken aims to address bilateral concerns, and global and regional issues, and explore potential areas of cooperation on shared transnational challenges.
US officials have set realistic expectations for the visit. Daniel Kritenbrink, the Department of State’s top diplomat for East Asia, emphasized that the intention is not to achieve a breakthrough or a complete transformation in the way the two nations interact. Instead, the focus is on adopting a responsible and confident approach to managing competition. Similarly, White House Indo-Pacific Coordinator Kurt Campbell clarified that Blinken’s primary goal is to advance the top priorities of the US agenda, rather than producing an exhaustive list of deliverables.
Enhancing military-to-military communication emerges as a crucial area of concern. Campbell stressed the necessity of these lines of communication, highlighting their significance in facilitating interaction between mature and strong militaries. Given the high stakes involved, Blinken is expected to advocate strongly for the establishment of robust channels of communication during his discussions with Chinese officials.
Prior to his visit, Blinken held a phone conversation with Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang, underscoring the importance of maintaining open lines of communication for the responsible management of the relationship between the two countries. The Department of State spokesman, Matthew Miller, highlighted Blinken’s commitment to using diplomatic engagements to address areas of concern and explore potential areas of cooperation.
In response, China expressed a more confrontational tone in their readout of the call, stating that relations between the two countries have encountered new difficulties and challenges since the beginning of the year. Qin emphasized that China has always approached China-US relations based on principles of mutual respect, peaceful coexistence, and win-win cooperation, as advocated by President Xi Jinping.
Tensions between the United States and China have been evident across various areas, including trade, espionage, military presence in the Indo-Pacific, the situation in Ukraine, and the future of Taiwan. For instance, in February, Blinken delayed his planned trip to China amidst a dispute over a Chinese spy balloon allegedly drifting over US territory. Recently, US officials reluctantly acknowledged that China had been operating spying facilities in Cuba for years, which were upgraded in 2019. Rhetoric regarding Taiwan has also remained heightened, with US President Biden affirming the commitment to defend the island in the event of an incursion by China while maintaining a policy of “strategic ambiguity.” Close encounters and maneuvers near Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea have underscored the need for improved communication between the two countries to avoid accidents and escalation.
Efforts have been made to strengthen ties with allies in the Indo-Pacific region, exemplified by the informal Quad grouping consisting of the US, Australia, India, and Japan. Additionally, the US and UK have signed the AUKUS security pact, aiming to equip Australia with nuclear-powered submarines. Trade relations have also been contentious, with President Biden maintaining tariffs imposed by his predecessor and implementing export controls on advanced technologies, while encouraging allies to do the same and diversify critical supply chains away from China. Beijing, on its part, has accused Washington of maintaining a dangerous “Cold War” mentality.
Despite these challenges, both countries have shown some willingness to address tensions and seek cooperation in specific areas, notably climate change. Last month, Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser, engaged in extensive meetings with senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi in Vienna. The talks were described as candid, substantive, and constructive by the US, focusing on removing obstacles in the China-US relationship and stabilizing it to prevent further deterioration. Prior to this, Blinken had also met with Yi in February during the Munich Security Conference, further highlighting the ongoing diplomatic efforts between the two nations.