The most important things from Antony Blinken’s trip to China

After two days of talks with other senior officials, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken held a sit-down meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday, concluding a long-anticipated trip to China. Blinken described the relationship between the two countries as “one of the most consequential in the world” and the purpose of the visit was to try to restore it.

What was the significance of Blinken’s trip to China?
Since 2018, Blinken is the first Secretary of State of the United States to visit China. He was supposed to go in February, but the U.S. military shot down a balloon that was thought to be used by Chinese agents and flew over the U.S., delaying his trip.

The State Department of the United States was the first to confirm his meeting with Xi shortly before it took place.

According to a senior Chinese official, relations between the United States and China have significantly deteriorated over the past few years, reaching a “low point.” China’s support for Russia in the midst of Vladimir Putin’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, as well as what the United States and its allies perceive as Chinese provocations in the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea, have weakened bilateral ties.

Blinken stated at a news conference on Monday following his meetings, “It was clear coming in that the relationship was at a point of instability, and both sides recognized the need to work to stabilize it.”

According to Blinken, the purpose of his trip to China was to “strengthen high-level challenges of communication, to make clear our positions and intentions in areas of disagreement, and to explore areas where we might work together when our interests align on shared transnational challenges.” A real conversation, he said, “a productive exchange.” We carried out everything.”

On Monday, he claimed to have had an “important” conversation with Xi.

Xi stated that the two sides had “agreed to follow through on the common understandings” that President Biden and he had reached on the sidelines of a summit in Bali last year, and that other issues had progressed.

The Chinese leader declared, “This is very good.”

Blinken had earlier met with State Councillor Qin Gang and Wang Yi, Director of the Office of the Central Commission for Foreign Affairs. A readout from the Chinese government says that Qin said that the relationship between the United States and China was “at the lowest point since its establishment” before the talks started.

The Chinese transcript of that meeting stated, “This does not serve the fundamental interests of the two peoples or meet the shared expectations of the international community.”

However, after speaking for more than five hours, both parties offered more favorable responses.

A senior official from the State Department stated, “This was a real conversation, a productive exchange.”

The meeting was described as “candid, in-depth, and constructive” in the Chinese readout.

Blinken had “emphasized the importance of diplomacy and maintaining open channels of communication across the full range of issues to reduce the risk of misperception and miscalculation,” according to the U.S. readout.

The Chinese readout stated, “Both sides agreed to continue moving forward consultations on the guiding principles of China-U.S. relations.”

Taiwan, a democratically self-governing island about 100 miles off the east coast of mainland China, has been a factor in the deterioration of relations between the United States and China. China considers Taiwan to be part of its territory despite the fact that it has been a multiparty democracy for decades.

One of Xi’s primary objectives is “reunification,” and he has stated that China is prepared to use force to take control of Taiwan.

A policy of “strategic ambiguity” has been followed by the United States in relation to Taiwan for a long time. This means that the country has avoided explicitly stating how it would respond to a Chinese invasion of the island. The White House later clarified that the United States’ stance had not changed, and Blinken stressed on Monday Washington’s commitment to the “longstanding U.S. ‘one China’ policy” in remarks that appeared to call into question that policy last year.

He stated, “That policy has not changed.” He also emphasized that the United States “did not support Taiwan independence,” despite the fact that the country is still committed to ensuring that Taiwan is capable of defending itself from any attack.

The Chinese government said in a statement that Wang Yi had told Blinken that “China has no room to compromise or concede” on Taiwan after the two of them met for approximately three hours on Monday.

He stated that the United States must “clearly oppose ‘Taiwan independence’ and respect China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

China’s official neutrality regarding Russia’s war in Ukraine has also been a major source of disagreement with Washington. Late last year, high-ranking U.S. officials, including Blinken, expressed concern that Beijing might decide to support Vladimr Putin’s invasion with lethal military assistance.

Monday, Blinken made the observation that the United States had “not seen anything right now to contradict that.” He stated that China had previously pledged not to provide Russia with lethal aid for use in Ukraine.

Direct lines of communication between U.S. and Chinese military commanders have been virtually cut off for some time. According to American officials, these direct lines of communication are a crucial point of contact when it comes to easing sudden, tense situations that could escalate into global crises.

The spy balloon incident, in which U.S. officials claimed that Chinese counterparts simply declined to answer calls to designated crisis phone lines, brought this issue to light at the beginning of the year.

The United States has worked hard to reestablish these emergency lines of communication that connect front-line commanders in light of the tension surrounding Taiwan and in the South China Sea, where the two countries frequently fly and sail military hardware in close proximity to one another.

During his visit to Beijing, Blinken stated that he had repeatedly brought up the issue of direct military-to-military communications, but that “at this moment, China has not agreed to move forward with that.”

He stated, “It is of the utmost importance that we restore those channels.” If we agree that it is in our mutual interest to prevent the competitive aspects of the relationship from coming into conflict, and if we agree that we have a responsibility to manage this relationship responsibly, then surely we can agree to ensure that military-to-military channels of communication are necessary.”

He described the talks with China about reestablishing those channels as a “work in progress.”