After persistent attempts by the Biden administration to revitalize communication lines, Antony Blinken, U.S. Secretary of State, set foot in Beijing on Sunday. This marked the most senior U.S. official’s presence in China since President Biden assumed office in 2021. Blinken follows in the footsteps of his predecessor, Mike Pompeo, who last visited China in 2018.
This arrival signals the onset of a two-day series of meetings between Blinken and high-ranking Chinese officials designed to navigate and mitigate the escalating U.S.-China strain. A statement by the State Department on June 14 emphasized Blinken’s mission to underline the value of transparent communication channels in managing the U.S.-PRC rapport responsibly. Blinken will also broach bilateral concerns and discussions on global and regional matters and the potential for cooperation on shared transnational challenges.
Originally planned for February, Blinken’s visit was deferred when Washington intercepted a Chinese surveillance balloon encroaching U.S. airspace on February 4. Since this incident, interaction at the higher echelons has been sporadic. Despite U.S. attempts to reignite military communications, China has consistently declined.
In response to these events, before boarding Air Force One (AFO) at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, President Biden shared his perspective with the press, acknowledging China’s “legitimate difficulties unrelated to the United States.” He suggested that the embarrassment surrounding the balloon incident reflected disunity in the CCP leadership rather than deliberate intentions, possibly hinting at internal strife within the CCP.
Blinken’s visit from June 18-19 anticipates meetings with Qin Gang, Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, China’s top diplomat, and potentially Xi Jinping, the Chinese leader. He will aim to accomplish three main goals during his trip: establishing crisis management mechanisms, promoting U.S. and allies’ interests, and voicing concerns directly. Blinken will also raise the issue of U.S. citizens detained on politically motivated charges in China.
The likelihood of any significant breakthroughs is low, given the increasingly strained U.S.-China relations due to the CCP’s aggressive promotion of its socialist worldview. However, Blinken’s visit will catalyze further bilateral meetings, possibly involving U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo. This could also set the stage for potential interactions between Xi and Biden during upcoming multilateral summits.
With growing concerns of a kinetic war between the United States and China, the repercussions could significantly affect global security, financial markets, trade routes and practices, and supply chains. Both nations being the largest economies in the world, any escalation could have severe global impacts.
In the past month, Xi has warned the Chinese population twice to brace for “extreme scenarios” and initiated measures to fortify the domestic industrial and economic base for wartime operation continuity. Furthermore, Xi has instructed the CCP’s military division to prepare for Taiwan’s takeover by 2027. However, it remains uncertain whether an actual invasion is planned. President Biden has consistently pledged U.S. support to Taiwan in case of any attempted invasion.
The U.S. and China continue to have their share of disputes. They are in contention over a myriad of issues, including trade, U.S. efforts to restrict China’s semiconductor industry, human rights violations by the CCP, its military aggression in the South China Sea, the influx of fentanyl precursors from China to the U.S., and the detention of Americans in China. The CCP is also developing military technologies specifically designed to overcome U.S. systems in the Indo-Pacific.
Post his visit to China, Blinken will head to London from June 16-21 for the Ukraine Recovery Conference, encouraging public and private sector support for Ukraine against Russia, as stated by the State Department.