Biden Bets High-Level Diplomacy Could Rekindle Fiery Relations With China

After three years of estrangement from China, President Biden’s top aides are flight to Beijing throughout the summer trying to convince and persuade Chinese officials, including Xi Jinping, the country’s leader, to create a new foundation for relations.

It could be a great pressure on the leadership of Mr. Biden. He’s betting that high-profile conversations can act as ballast in a relationship that’s been falling apart for years. “I think there is a solution, to establish a working relationship with China that benefits them and us,” Biden said in interview with CNN broadcast on Sunday, as Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen was to finish his journey in Beijing.

Ms. Yellen met for hours with China’s Prime Minister, Li Qiang, and with Mr. Xi’s deputy prime minister and top financial adviser who was not known to US officials – a sign that the exchange could help establish important private initiatives. Starting in May, the CIA director and the secretary of state will also travel to Beijing, with the special envoy for climate and the secretary of commerce soon to follow.

Mr. Biden and his aides say that building this relationship may be necessary to resolve the conflict between the world’s two largest powers. But the latest round of visits will also provide more relief to the growing tensions in the relationship, which some experts say could lead to armed conflict if not managed properly.

The talks did nothing to address one of the most pressing issues between the two countries – Taiwan’s position – and China’s military ambitions in the Asia-Pacific region, which are incompatible with US military dominance there. When Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken met with Xi in June, the Chinese leader refused to even acknowledge the need to do so. competition system.

This means that China will continue to view many of Washington’s policies as hostile actions, including export control of advanced semiconductor technology and new military agreements with other Asian countries. American and Chinese officials have noted that the relationship is straining due to military tensions, warning of a possible war. be normalized in two heads.

For the first time, Xi said publicly this year that the United States is trying to establish “universal storage” of China, and there is no indication that talks this summer are contradicting that view.

Mr. Biden said in the interview that Mr. Xi called him when the United States was strengthening its military alliance in the region and asked, “Why are you doing this?” Mr. Biden said he replied: “We are not doing this to surround you.” We are doing this to maintain stability in the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea” and to promote trust in the use of international waters and aviation.

US officials say the two militaries have close sea and air links, and that any collision could lead to problems. But military talks are still a big difference in the relationship.

Mr. Xi and his aides criticized Mr. Blinken when he asked him to reopen military-to-military channels, which China closed after Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan last August. And in early June, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III I have a cold shoulder from his Chinese counterpart, Gen. Li Shangfu, at the annual security conference in Singapore. The US government imposed sanctions on Li in 2018 for purchasing military equipment from Russia.

The Biden administration and Chinese officials want US politics to escalate next year. The Republican and Democratic candidates in the 2024 election are expected to try to outdo each other in the hawkish tone of China. US officials say the visits this summer are intended to give the two governments an opportunity to openly discuss the relationship before the political campaign begins.

“For the Chinese people, this year is an opportunity to finish things before next year’s US presidential election,” said Yun Sun, a Chinese foreign policy expert at the Stimson Center in Washington. “Integrating with the Chinese themselves financial problems, especially the sluggish recovery, Beijing has incentives to change. Washington too. “

China wanted to receive US Treasury officials ahead of Mr. Blinken, but Biden officials insisted that Mr. Blinken should be the first to visit after a secret visit by William J. Burns, director of the CIA, in May.

Chinese officials have avoided committing to Blinken on any major issues, including on limiting the export of the primary drug used to make fentanyl, which China is the biggest seller of. Chinese authorities are suspicious of Mr. Blinken, who regularly raises issues of modern competition and human rights. In February, she canceled her first tour plans due to a A Chinese spy balloon unitand he said publicly that month that China was considering sending military aid in Russia for use in Ukraine.

Ms. Yellen has received the best reception since last Thursday. China’s Ministry of Finance has released a long words On Monday, he expressed his comments in a positive way not seen in other recent comments on US-China relations. The statement underscored Ms. Yellen’s insistence that the United States does not want to end, or withdraw, its economy from China. Less than two weeks ago, the Chinese Prime Minister warned in a speech that the United States was trying to do the same.

Perhaps most importantly, the finance minister’s statement echoed recent calls by Ms. Yellen and Mr. Blinken for the United States and China to cooperate in areas of common interest, including global economic stability and climate change. “Tackling global challenges requires cooperation and cooperation between China and the United States,” it said.

R. Nicholas Burns, the ambassador of the United States in Beijing, in an interview with the public that “direct negotiations with the Chinese leadership is in the best interest of the US.”

“After the visits of Secretaries Blinken and Yellen, we have the ability to raise face-to-face with many areas of disagreement between our governments,” he added, as well as push China on the fentanyl issue and try to move forward. on areas of cooperation: climate change, global health, food security and agriculture.

The head of the Treasury Department said during Mrs. Yellen’s return trip to Washington that her visit was successful in establishing cooperation with China’s new economic group and “establishing cooperation” between the United States and China – a phrase that is very popular among US officials. describe the efforts with China.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss diplomatic negotiations, said Ms. Yellen and her team had a good understanding of the structure of China’s financial community and how it viewed the health of China’s economy. The official said the Treasury hoped that cross-sector communications would be held regularly to avoid misunderstandings. But the official declined to say whether Ms. Yellen had called He Lifeng, China’s vice premier and an economist close to Mr. Xi, in Washington.

Eswar Prasad, a Cornell University professor who studies China’s economy, said “Ms. Yellen’s willingness to engage with China’s economic leadership on a number of key issues and to agree rather than explain why the US is doing it will make for an encouraging discussion.”

“Although a major reduction in the economic war is not in the cards, Yellen’s visit could help to reduce the growth of the economy and trade between the two countries despite the increasing anti-China rhetoric in Washington,” he said.

However, the two governments are expecting more friction on the economy, export controls and sanctions. American officials have tried to show Chinese officials that this is unusual in the relationship – that the United States is planning to cut real trade ties with China for national security reasons. The idea was made clear by Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser, in an April statement in which he said the United States would protect “basic technologies with a narrow perimeter and a long fence.”

The Chinese government continues to fight US sanctions against hundreds of Chinese organizations and individuals who have been punished for human rights abuses in Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong.

Some Chinese experts doubt that the good will of Ms. Yellen’s visit will continue. Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations at Renmin University in Beijing, said that the most important comments of Mrs. Yellen were the ones that she said that the United States will continue to diversify its supply chain from China and will take measures to protect national security.

“It sums up two important points that the US has consistently and repeatedly escalated,” he wrote in a text message.

Wu Xinbo, director of international studies at Fudan University, said the long-term impact of Ms. Yellen’s visit “depends on how this translates into policy.” Technology issues have moved so far into the middle of the relationship that Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo’s visit will be difficult to demonstrate whether the United States is ready to address China’s concerns, he said.

He said: “By far, his visit is more important than Yellen’s visit.”

China has agreed to resume climate talks after suspending them last August. John Kerry, the special climate envoy, is scheduled to land in Beijing on Sunday four days of discussion. China and the United States are the two largest emitters of greenhouse gases, and China’s use of coal continues to grow even as its renewable energy continues to grow.

“There are many serious things that need to be done to achieve our goals,” Kerry said in an interview last Thursday, “and the news coming out of the scientific community around the world should be of great concern to everyone.”

At least three Chinese ministers are expected to visit the United States by October. This could pave the way for what should be the most interesting of the year: Mr. Biden and Mr. Xi will meet in San Francisco in November on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.

Lisa Friedman contributed reports.

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