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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken Visits Beijing to Reestablish Communication Channels and Manage US-China Relations

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has arrived in Beijing for a high-stakes visit, marking the first visit by a top American diplomat to China in five years.[0] The visit is meant to steer relations between the United States and China back on course after months of inflamed tensions between the two nations.[1] Blinken is set to meet with Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang or top diplomat Wang Yi to discuss the importance of maintaining open lines of communication to responsibly manage the relationship.[2]

According to a senior State Department official, Blinken's main objective in China is to restore communication channels, particularly direct military-to-military communication, between Beijing and Washington.[3] After a call between Blinken and Foreign Minister Qin and a meeting between top US and Chinese officials in Beijing, the visit has been scheduled.[2] In May, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan met with senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi in Vienna for “candid talks.”

The US-China relationship is at a precarious moment.[2] The attitudes and strategies in Beijing and Washington are becoming more rigid.[4] The two sides lack a common set of ideas for how to manage bilateral ties under the condition of strategic competition.[4] The basic communication channels have atrophied substantially, and the relationship lacks mechanisms for managing this complexity.[4] In the event of a crisis occurring tomorrow, it would come as no shock to many, as it has been anticipated by numerous individuals.[4]

Blinken's visit helps pave the way for additional meetings — including a potential one-to-one between US President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping later this year.[5] There is not much anticipation for any outcome to arise from the discussions.[6] But Blinken's Beijing visit should set in motion a process that sets both countries on a path toward a more predictable bilateral relationship.[4] Achieving progress will be a challenging task that demands immense political bravery from both parties involved.[4] It is time to move away from blaming each other and take pragmatic measures to handle the prolonged competition of great powers with responsibility.[4]

During the visit, Blinken is expected to raise concerns about several issues, including the fentanyl crisis, Taiwan and cross-Strait issues, the war in Ukraine, and China’s detention of American citizens, including Kai Li, Mark Swidan, and David Lin. During his upcoming meetings, Blinken is expected to address a range of concerns, such as the detention of American citizens in China and the unlawful importation of fentanyl from China to the United States, which have been raised by other diplomats in recent discussions.

Blinken’s visit comes amid simmering tensions in the South China Sea and China's military exercises near Taiwan, which have not eased US concerns.[6] The US Indo-Pacific Command said a China warship came within 150 yards of a US destroyer in the Taiwan Strait.[6] The relationship has also been disturbed by China's military actions.[3] A Chinese warship recently cut off a US Navy ship in an incident the Pentagon has called “an unsafe maritime interaction,” forcing the American destroyer to make some maneuvers to avert a collision.[3]

In addition, Beijing considers Taiwan part of its territory, with no right to independently conduct diplomatic relations. The US recognizes Beijing as the sole government of China but maintains unofficial relations with Taiwan, a democratically self-governed island. The One China policy states that the United States acknowledges the Beijing government as the only governing authority over China.[7] The territory of Beijing includes Taiwan as per their claim.

0. “Secretary Blinken's Trip to the People's Republic of China and the United Kingdom – United States Department of State” Department of State, 14 Jun. 2023, https://www.state.gov/secretary-blinkens-trip-to-the-peoples-republic-of-china-and-the-united-kingdom/

1. “Blinken lands in China for high-stakes visit amid rising tensions” CNN, 18 Jun. 2023, https://www.cnn.com/2023/06/17/politics/blinken-beijing-visit-expectations/index.html

2. “Why is US Secretary of State Antony Blinken going to China?” Al Jazeera English, 16 Jun. 2023, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/6/16/why-is-us-secretary-of-state-antony-blinken-going-to-china

3. “Why U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken's Meeting With China May Be Doomed” The Daily Beast, 17 Jun. 2023, https://www.thedailybeast.com/why-us-secretary-of-state-tony-blinkens-meeting-with-china-may-be-doomed

4. “What's at Stake as Antony Blinken Heads to Beijing” ChinaFile, 16 Jun. 2023, https://www.chinafile.com/conversation/whats-stake-antony-blinken-heads-beijing

5. “Blinken lands in China on rare trip with hopes low for any breakthrough” CNA, 17 Jun. 2023, https://www.channelnewsasia.com/world/blinken-arrive-beijing-hopes-low-breakthrough-3569686

6. “Blinken lands in Beijing for high-stakes diplomacy after spy balloon saga” CNBC, 16 Jun. 2023, https://www.cnbc.com/2023/06/16/china-blinken-to-beijing-for-high-stakes-diplomacy-after-spy-balloon-saga.html

7. “US and China take steps towards thaw as Blinken prepares to visit Beijing, but mistrust remains” The Guardian, 12 Jun. 2023, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/jun/12/us-and-china-take-tentative-steps-towards-thaw-in-relations-as-blinken-prepares-to-visit-beijing