Asia China Politics

China Calls On US to Meet it Halfway Amid Frosty Ties

China has called on the United States to meet it halfway, saying that bilateral ties are at the lowest point since the start of diplomatic relations, according to an official Chinese account of talks between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang on Sunday.

In a meeting that lasted more than five hours, Mr Qin told Mr Blinken that Taiwan is a core issue in the China-US relationship and the greatest source of risk.

“Qin Gang pointed out that the Taiwan issue is at the heart of China’s core interests, the most consequential issue and the most pronounced risk in the China-US relationship,” according to a statement from China’s foreign ministry.

“(The dip in bilateral relations) does not serve the fundamental interests of the two peoples or meet the shared expectations of the international community,” the statement quoted Mr Qin as saying, adding that unexpected incidents should be handled in a “calm, professional and rational” manner.

Separately, the US State Department said that Mr Blinken held “candid, substantive and constructive” talks with Mr Qin.

“The Secretary emphasised the importance of diplomacy and maintaining open channels of communication across the full range of issues to reduce the risk of misperception and miscalculation,” US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said.

Both also expressed a desire to stabilise the relationship and prevent competition from veering into conflict, added State Department officials, noting that Mr Blinken had made it very clear that the US does not want to decouple from China.

Mr Blinken also “raised a number of issues of concern, as well as opportunities to explore cooperation on shared transnational issues with the PRC where our interests align”, Mr Miller added in a statement, using the official name of People’s Republic of China.

The spokesman said Mr Blinken invited Mr Qin to visit Washington “to continue the discussions, and they agreed to schedule a reciprocal visit at a mutually suitable time”.

Both sides also agreed to expand future cultural and educational exchanges between the countries, allowing in more students, academics and business people, and increasing more passenger flights between the countries.

Mr Blinken is in China for a two-day visit, the first top American diplomat to do so in five years, amid frosty bilateral ties and tensions between the world’s top two economies.

The trip had been postponed from February after an alleged Chinese spy balloon flew into US airspace.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (second from right) and China’s Foreign Minister Qin Gang (second from left) meet at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, on June 18, 2023. PHOTO: AFP

Expectations were low of any deliverables from the visit, given that Beijing and Washington disagree on a wide range of issues, including Taiwan, trade and an ongoing tech rivalry that has seen the US restrict Chinese access to advanced semiconductor chips and manufacturing equipment.

Mr Qin and Mr Blinken had met earlier in the day in a villa on the grounds of the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing. Mr Qin, who was China’s envoy to the US until late 2022, greeted Mr Blinken outside the building, and they chatted in English as they walked in.

Both briefly shook hands in front of American and Chinese flags before heading to a meeting room where they sat opposite each other at two long tables.

China’s Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs Hua Chunying, who was part of the meeting, posted on Twitter a picture of Mr Blinken and Mr Qin.

“Hope this meeting can help steer China-US relations back to what the two presidents agreed upon in Bali,” she wrote on Twitter shortly after the meeting started.

US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping held their long-awaited first face-to-face meeting on the sidelines of a Group of 20 summit in November 2022 on the Indonesian island of Bali, engaging in talks over Taiwan and North Korea. They also pledged more frequent communication between Washington and Beijing.

There are hopes that the meeting between Mr Blinken and Mr Qin will help reset bilateral relations to one that is more constructive, rather than the confrontational stance seen in recent months.

China brings to the table a wide range of complaints, including the US restricting its access to high-tech chips, sanctions on key government officials, and what it sees as meddling over the self-ruled island of Taiwan, which Beijing sees as Chinese territory awaiting reunification.

Washington is looking to resume high-level diplomacy and establish open lines of communication to prevent tensions escalating during a crisis, such as collisions of military aircraft or ships in the Taiwan Strait or the South China Sea, both of which have seen increased military manoeuvres and drills.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said during a briefing last Friday that Beijing will use Mr Blinken’s visit to “make clear its position on bilateral relations and resolutely safeguard our interests”.

Source: Asia News Network