Xi holds talks with Blinken in Beijing

President Xi Jinping hosted Antony Blinken for talks in Beijing on Monday, capping two days of high-level talks by the US secretary of state with Chinese officials.

Blinken’s was the highest-level visit by a US official to China in nearly five years marked by severely strained ties between the world’s two largest economies.

US officials have said they hope the visit will bring more stability, if not breakthroughs, between Washington and Beijing.

Xi, China’s most powerful leader in decades, met Blinken around 4:30 pm (0830 GMT) on Monday, Chinese state media said.

The meeting came after Blinken held more than 10 hours of talks over two days with other top officials.

At the ornate Diaoyutai State Guesthouse earlier Monday, Blinken and China’s foreign policy supremo Wang Yi offered polite smiles before talks with their aides, who unlike their bosses wore masks in line with lingering Covid-19 protocols.

Away from the cameras, Wang told Blinken that his trip “comes at a critical juncture in China-US relations”, according to state broadcaster CCTV.

“It is necessary to make a choice between dialogue and confrontation, cooperation or conflict,” he said.

“We must reverse the downward spiral of China-US relations, push for a return to a healthy and stable track, and work together to find a correct way for China and the United States to get along,” Wang added.

He also issued a warning on Taiwan, the self-ruling democracy claimed by Beijing.

In the past year, China has launched live-fire military drills twice near the island in anger over meetings between top US lawmakers and Taiwanese leaders.

“On this issue, China has no room to compromise or concede,” Wang told Blinken, according to CCTV.

State Department spokesman Matthew Miller called the discussion with Wang “candid and productive”.
Blinken “underscored the importance of responsibly managing the competition between the United States and the PRC through open channels of communication to ensure competition does not veer into conflict”, Miller said, referring to the People’s Republic of China.

– ‘Quarrelling lovers’ –

US officials have voiced fears that China in the coming years will try to seize Taiwan and insist that Washington’s sales of weapons to the island are meant only to preserve the status quo.

Blinken will address reporters before leaving China later Monday.

Tensions between China and the United States have soared in recent years over a host of issues including trade, technology and Taiwan, with both US President Joe Biden and his predecessor Donald Trump calling Beijing the most serious threat to long-term US global primacy.

On the streets of Beijing, Sun Yi, 26, said she hoped that Blinken’s visit would improve the relationship and that she hoped to visit the United States.

“I think the two countries right now are like quarrelling lovers. Both sides have their own personalities and interests and are not willing to compromise,” she said.

– Hopes for new summit –

Xi met Biden in November in Bali on the sidelines of a Group of 20 summit, raising cautious hopes for a thaw.

Blinken abruptly shelved his trip, which was agreed in Bali, in February after the United States said it detected — and later shot down — a Chinese spy balloon hovering over the US mainland.

Biden on Saturday said he did not believe the Chinese leadership was aware of the balloon — suggesting a disconnect with the military, which has been less eager to restore contacts with the United States.

Biden has kept Trump’s hard line on China and in some areas gone further, including banning exports of high-end semiconductors to the rising power.

But Biden has also voiced hope for limited cooperation in areas such as climate and has voiced hope for a new in-person meeting with Xi.

The next opportunity is expected in September when Biden and Xi are both expected in New Delhi for the latest G20 summit.

Xi has also been invited to San Francisco in November as the United States leads the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.

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