Xi meets Blinken to ease conflict; U.S. reaffirms ‘one China’ policy
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, June 19, 2023. | Leah Millis / Pool Photo via AP

Chinese President Xi Jinping met U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday, agreeing to “stabilize” badly deteriorated relations between the two countries. Washington and Beijing suggested the aim of Blinken’s trip was to improve lines of communication and avoid misunderstandings that could lead to war.

Blinken reportedly confirmed the long-standing U.S. policy of not supporting independence for the breakaway Chinese province of Taiwan. He also said the meeting—one originally postponed after the U.S. shot down a balloon it claimed was spying for China in February—was to ensure that “competition does not veer into conflict.”

When asked last year, U.S. President Joe Biden said Washington would defend Taiwan in the event of a “Chinese invasion,” though aides later said his comments did not reflect a departure from the long-standing “one China” policy.

But the U.S. has continued to adopt a hostile stance towards China over Taiwan, including the former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi visiting the island and provocative maneuvers by the U.S. military in the Straits of Taiwan.

The U.S. has also increased its naval presence on China’s coastline in the last year and accused Chinese vessels and war planes of “aggressive” maneuvers close to its own. China objects to U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, the AUKUS nuclear submarine pact with Britain and Australia, and the “Quad” military bloc with India, Australia, and Japan.

Both China and the U.S. said they were satisfied with progress made during the two days of talks in Beijing, without pointing to specific areas of agreement beyond a mutual decision to return to a broad agenda for cooperation and competition endorsed last year by Xi and Biden at a summit in Bali.

Xi said, “The Chinese side has made our position clear, and the two sides have agreed to follow through the common understandings President Biden and I had reached in Bali.

“The two sides have made progress and reached agreement on some specific issues. This is very good,” he added.

Blinken said, “It is absolutely vital that we have these kinds of communications. This is something we’re going to keep working on.”

Blinken also met with Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang and Wang Yi, head of the Communist Party’s foreign affairs department. Following talks between Blinken and Wang, China’s foreign ministry said “it is necessary to make a choice between dialogue or confrontation, cooperation or conflict.” It blamed the “U.S. side’s erroneous perception of China, leading to incorrect policies towards China” for the current “low point” in relations.

It also said the U.S. bore responsibility for halting “the spiraling decline of China-U.S. relations to push it back to a healthy and stable track.” It added that Wang had “demanded that the U.S. stop hyping up the ‘China threat theory,’ lift illegal unilateral sanctions against China, abandon suppression of China’s technological development, and refrain from arbitrary interference in China’s internal affairs.”

The sanctions issue specifically was pointed to by the Chinese side for why there cannot yet be any resumption of military-to-military exchanges. But the two powers expressed a willingness to hold more talks, and U.S. officials expect the visit by Blinken to pave the way for more bilateral meetings in coming months.

China analyst Carlos Martinez called the visit “a step in the right direction.” He said: “With U.S.-China relations at their lowest ebb since the start of the rapprochement in the early 1970s, and with the U.S. side escalating a multifaceted new Cold War, reducing tensions between the two countries is a matter of global importance.”

Martinez added: “Ultimately, prospects for a lasting global peace hinge on whether the U.S. can bring itself to accept the reality of a multipolar world.”

Peace campaigner and China specialist Jenny Clegg said there were “some positive signs” from the talks which may help to ease tensions, but “China will now expect concrete demonstration of good will.” But, she added, restoring good relations “could be a work of many years.”

This article features reporting from Morning Star International Editor Roger McKenzie and other sources.

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