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Blinken visit seeks to ease fraught US relationship with China

US secretary of state’s visit comes amid tense exchanges as China’s foreign minister says US should respect the ‘Taiwan issue’

In a long-awaited visit, the US secretary of state is due to arrive in China this week, where he is expected to meet with senior officials in an attempt to stabilise the fraught relationship between the two superpowers.

The buildup to Antony Blinken’s China visit has been marred by a series of tense exchanges. On Wednesday Qin Gang, China’s foreign minister, told Blinken in a phone call that the US should stop interfering in China’s internal affairs. Qin also said that the US should respect China’s concerns on the “Taiwan issue”.

Daniel Kritenbrink, the US state department’s top diplomat for east Asia, later told reporters that he did not expect “some sort of breakthrough or transformation” in the US-China relationship, according to Reuters.

Kritenbrink added: “We’re coming to Beijing with a realistic, confident approach and a sincere desire to manage our competition in the most responsible way possible.”

Last week the US conceded that China had been spying on the US from Cuba since at least 2019. The White House had initially denied reports that China had struck a multibillion-dollar deal with Cuba to eavesdrop on the US.

News of the eavesdropping unit had threatened to derail Blinken’s visit –which had already been postponed from February, when an alleged Chinese spy balloon was shot down in US air space, bursting hopes for a rapprochement building on President Xi Jinping’s face-to-face meeting with President Joe Biden in November.

Blinken, who will be in China on 18-19 June, will be the highest ranking US official to visit the country since Biden took office.

The visit comes at a low point in US-China relations. Beijing has repeatedly accused the US of engaging in double standards and a “new cold war mentality” when it comes to trade sanctions and export controls.

In recent days Chinese state media has published several articles throwing cold water on the prospects of dialogue. On Tuesday, one commentator for the state broadcaster CCTV wrote: “Since the start of the year, America has been a bit vicious with regards to China.

“Every time they say they want to meet, the US is keen to play tricks on China, creating the illusion that the US is eager to communicate. At the same time, it has repeatedly tested and provoked China’s bottom line,” wrote Yuyuan Tantian, the CCTV-affiliated blogger.

Jessica Chen Weiss, a professor of China and Asia-Pacific studies at Cornell University, said that she didn’t expect “major breakthroughs” from the visit. “Given the current levels of mistrust and tension in the relationship, a good outcome would be a better understanding of each side’s concerns and red lines as well as modest progress on areas of overlapping interest,” such as the economy, climate change and “the resumption of people-to-people interactions post-Covid”.

Jonathan Ward, author of The Decisive Decade, a book about US competition with China, said that the state of US-China relations pointed to a “dangerous future ahead”.

“I don’t think any particular meeting is going to change the structural problem in the US-China relationship,” Ward said. “The broader picture is that the Chinese Communist party has a clear strategy to become a leading economic power, and the US has only woken up to this very recently.”

Outside of formal diplomacy, Beijing has opened the door to western businesspeople. In May, Elon Musk visited China, meeting foreign minister Qin and other senior officials. And Bill Gates, who tweeted on Wednesday that he had arrived in Beijing, is reported to be meeting Xi on Friday.

It has not yet been confirmed if Blinken will also meet with the Chinese president.

Source: theguardian

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