Blinken to visit China; trip expected to relaunch next stage of high-level exchanges: experts
Published: Jun 14, 2023 12:41 PM
China US File Photo:CFP

China US File Photo: CFP

Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Qin Gang had a phone call with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the latter's request on Wednesday Beijing time shortly before the Chinese foreign ministry confirmed that Blinken will visit China on Sunday and Monday. In the phone call, Qin expounded China's firm stance on core concerns such as the Taiwan question. The phone call serves as a reminder to the US side that it should "hold a correct attitude" for high-level meetings while correcting its wrong deeds, some experts said. 

Blinken, as the highest-ranking US government official to visit China since President Joe Biden took office in January 2021, is expected to relaunch the next stage of high-level exchanges between the two countries through the visit and to work together to manage divergences, some experts said. 

The upcoming visit will undoubtedly facilitate face-to-face communication at a high level, allowing both sides to express their concerns, which will also enable both sides to more accurately and deeply discern and understand each other's intentions, policy essence and direction, some experts noted. This is helpful in preventing misjudgments, enhancing understanding, and managing disagreements, they said. 

During the phone call with Blinken, Qin pointed out that since the beginning of the year, China-US relations have faced new difficulties and challenges, and the responsibility for this is clear. China has always viewed and handled China-US relations following the principles of mutual respect, peaceful coexistence, and win-win cooperation proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Qin expounded China's firm stance on core concerns such as the Taiwan question, emphasizing that the US should respect it, stop interfering in China's internal affairs, and stop harming China's sovereign security and development interests in the name of competition. 

Some Chinese observers believe the phone call serves as a reminder to the US side that if the senior US diplomat comes to China without sincerity or continues pressuring China to achieve Washington's own goals, the visit would be meaningless. 

"Blinken's visit has been delayed for a long period as the Biden administration first focused on unifying its allies and taking a Cold War stance against China, but now the US is showing its eagerness to make this visit possible to relaunch US-China high-level engagement for the next phase," Wu Xinbo, director of the Center for American Studies at Fudan University, told the Global Times on Wednesday. 

"The two sides are expected to exchange views on some divergences and may reach some consensuses on cooperation, for example, in people-to-people exchanges," Wu said. 

Qin told Blinken during the phone call that he hopes that the US will take practical actions to implement the important consensus reached between the two heads of state on the sidelines of the G20 Bali summit in November 2022 and the relevant commitments made by the US, move toward China, effectively manage differences, promote exchanges and cooperation, and get China-US relations back on track to a healthy and stable development.

Although the US has seemingly turned over the page of the "balloon incident", in recent days, it continued hyping China-related topics ahead of the reported trip by Blinken to China as the Biden administration said it has "taken diplomatic steps" that slowed China's intelligence presence overseas following its recent hype over an alleged "Cuba spy base." Meanwhile, the US has been targeting more Chinese companies by adding 31 Chinese entities into its so-called Entity List, in addition to some media reports suggesting that the US government is preparing "evacuation plans" for American citizens living in Taiwan. 

During the phone call, Qin once again pointed out the root cause of the current difficulties US-China relations are experiencing and the ways to resolve these problems. It depends on whether the US side will correct its wrongdoings and wrong ideas in handling the bilateral relationship, Li Haidong, a professor at China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times on Wednesday. 

"Blinken's upcoming visit will undoubtedly help both sides to deeply understand each others' intentions and policies to avoid misjudgment," Li said. During the visit, the US diplomat will probably discuss a variety of topics where both parties can engage in dialogue or potential collaboration. However, we should be clear that the essence of the US's all-out strategic competition with China is unlikely to change, the expert said. 

Blinken will meet senior Chinese officials where he will discuss the importance of maintaining open lines of communication to "responsibly manage" the US-China relationship. He will also raise bilateral issues of concern, global and regional matters and potential cooperation on shared transnational challenges, according to a readout from the US Department of State. 

Hopefully, this visit to China can achieve some objectives such as relaunching the next stage of high-level exchanges between China and the US. Both sides should work together to manage their differences, Wu said. "Also, the two sides are expected to reach some consensuses on cooperation." 

The US side has sent signals of its wish to fix the bilateral relationship in recent days. For instance, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said during a House committee hearing on Tuesday that it is in the US' best interest to maintain ties with China, saying that "it would be disastrous for us to attempt to decouple from China." 

Despite emerging signals of a thaw in bilateral relations, the US has engaged in a series of acts that are not conducive to create a positive atmosphere for possible high-level meetings, experts said. 

"The phone call serves as a reminder to the US side: we would not reject its request for a visit, but it must come only when it is made with sincerity and true intentions to improve bilateral relations," Li said. 

Still, some experts doubt Washington's sincerity, as it may hope to maintain high-level meetings with China only to reassure its allies or to pressure China in order to achieve its own goals. 

"To some extent, it's us playing the first card, to make sure what we will talk about. The visit will have no meaning unless US side follows the principles mentioned in the talks," Li said.