Bilateral relations between China and the US have continued to deteriorate with the recent suspension of Chinese spy events in Cuba. To rescue the seemingly unstoppable souring situation, the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken eventually started his delayed formal visit to Beijing on June 18 2023 and is expected to start rounds of talks with Chinese ministers.
As reported by Nikkei Asia on 19 June 2023, at the latest, Blinken has met with Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang in Beijing’s Diaoyutai State Guesthouse to hold a five-and-a-half-hour-long “candid” talks, emphasizing the importance of diplomacy and communication, allowing reduce risk of misunderstanding in a wide range of conflicts and issues. Both sides also suggested a visit for Qin to travel to Washington in return, at a suitable time in the future.
Blinken’s formal visit marks an important step in considering alleviating the souring relations, as he become the first Secretary of State to visit China in person since 2018 when his former Mike Pompeo visited the country after a Chinese spy balloon conflict happened. The current visit is also amid a similar condition, as several national security conflicts occurred between the two powers, including once again a spy balloon incident in February 2023, a Chinese warship sailing close to a US destroyer in the Taiwan strait on June 3, 2023, and latest accusation of China spying activities in Cuba facilities, making Blinken’s visit to resolve bilateral tensions more meaningful and important.
Despite a series of conflicts to be resolved and discussed, analysts from different institutions generally are pessimistic about what the talk can bring to the souring relations in short. For example, current Vice President of Asia Policy on international security and Diplomacy Daniel Russel has commented on Twitter that the visit will be particularly challenging since both the US and China “have an interest in stabilizing relationship… each wants to define the steps other must take to avoid further tension”, emphasising that Blinken will have to aware of China hawks to focus on his actions and words that may signal the Biden administration backs off on China’s behaviour.
Several analysts have also highlighted China’s attempt to completely call the US responsible for causing tensions and conflicts, for example, the official Chinese media Global Times, published a piece of Chinese opinion article commenting on Blinken’s visit, emphasising that it is the US that has “greatly pressurised” the Chinese in past months when the Chinese foreign minister has shown a willingness to solve conflicts in peaceful ways. However, the US overreacted to the 2023 spy balloon events and had not replied to the Chinese, only to suddenly came back now as if to put on a dramatic visit to maintain its great power image to the international community.
The New York Times has also quoted on Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy’s researcher Drew Thompson’s comment, that the comments of the Chinese indicated that the Chinese are not willing to corporate and are not satisfied with the current situation, and wanted to see the US back off a lot more, such as reducing its military influence across the Indo-Pacific region, a deal that the US will not take. Blinken’s visits are expected to be extra challenging and may not be able to bring large breakthroughs to frosty relations in conclusion.
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