The most important thing about Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to Beijing is that contact between the US and China has been restored at a high political level. This is a small but significant step forward.
It has been five years since the US Secretary of State was last in Beijing.
Since then, the relationship has gone from cold to frozen.
There is stiff competition in many fields. The big challenge is to avoid a rivalry degenerating into a military confrontation with dramatic consequences for the whole world.
Blinken’s journey is an attempt to continue the dialogue. In the meeting that lasted a total of ten hours, he sat down with Foreign Minister Qin Gang and President Xi Jinping’s foreign policy adviser, Wang Yi.
Xi then received Flash at the Great Hall of the People in Tiananmen Square in Beijing. It is usually the place where Xi meets foreign heads of state.
That the meeting took place is a clear sign that Xi wants to de-escalate tensions in his relationship with the United States.
His intention was not to smooth over differences of opinion. But the world benefits from the rivalry between the two superpowers handled responsibly. There must be open channels of communication to resolve disputes and avoid dangerous misunderstandings.
And while the US and China have conflicting interests, there are also opportunities for cooperation, for example on global climate challenges.
President Xi called the talks “sincere and deep”. It was an opportunity to raise a difficult issue in which the US and China stand on opposite sides. We didn’t see a big smile. There were no expressions of friendship when Blinken met with Chinese leaders.
That is wrong. The atmosphere is polite but measured. The basic contradiction remains.
Blinken said that among other things he discussed what he called China’s provocative actions in the Taiwan Strait. China protests US support for democratically elected authorities in Taiwan. The dispute over Taiwan is the most difficult and most dangerous of all issues in the strained relationship.
The US secretary of state also raised the human rights situation for Uyghurs in Xinjiang and for the people of Tibet and Hong Kong. It is about the fundamental values that distinguish democracy from authoritarian regimes.
It should also be noted that Blinken called on China to use its immense influence in North Korea to stem dictator Kim Jong-un’s dangerous behavior. Recently, Kim has increased tensions in the region through nuclear threats and missile launches.
It is positive that both parties express a desire to stabilize the relationship. Blinken’s visit lays the groundwork for a possible summit between President Xi Jinping and Joe Biden later this year.
The US and China are engaged in a global competition over trade, technology and more. It should not get in the way of necessary political conversations.
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