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China’s Xi Jinping meets US Secretary of State Antony Blinken

It’s been confirmed that China’s Xi Jinping, the president of China, is to meet the top us diplomat, Antony Blinken, who’s on a visit to China at the moment. The significance of this is that he was expected to meet, obviously, senior officials, but it wasn’t clear at one stage whether he was going to get a meeting with the president. So that’s now been confirmed. China’s Xi Jinping to meet blinken on Friday.

China’s Xi Jinping meets US Secretary

Today, during that meeting, well, actually, Blinken has been holding talks in Beijing already with a chinese foreign minister, Wang Yi. Mister Wang said the US China relationship had begun to stabilise in recent months, but negative factors were increasing. He said the choice was between international cooperation or rivalry and confrontation that could even slide into conflict. Mister Blinken said it was important to discuss differences to avoid miscalculations from Beijing. Here’s our China correspondent, Stephen McDonnell. 

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The visiting us secretary of state said that this relationship between Beijing and Washington is the most consequential in the world. And Wang Yi told his us counterpart that everywhere else in the world is waiting for answers from the two of them in terms of what they can come up with, where they can cooperate. I don’t think many people would disagree with both of those politicians on both of those fronts. And Antony Blinken did speak today about the areas where they are cooperating, military to military communication, cracking down on the illegal narcotics trade, on AI.

And yet he said that there are these significant areas of disagreement where they need to speak quite frankly with one another to avoid miscalculations. And what could that miscalculation look like? According to Wang Yi, it could be deadly, because they can either choose cooperation or they can choose to further increase tensions in the relationship, which could slide into conflict. And what he’s talking about there is like an accidental conflict.

Imagine the South China Sea or the Taiwan Strait, where they start shooting at one another. And that would be absolutely terrible for the whole world if this sort of thing happened. And it’s why they’re having these discussions right now in Beijing. You know, when these meetings take place, the cameras are allowed in for the first few minutes. And so what they say at that beginning part, before they close the doors and the reporters leave, it’s really deliberate. They want the whole world to get that message.

And Wang Yi and that meeting today with Anthony Blinken said that the China US relationship had been. Well, as he described it, the grand ship of the China US relationship had been through rough waters, but had gradually been steered into calmer seas. So he was, you know, being quite optimistic in that way. And yet he also said in these same comments at the beginning that. And I’ll just read it out so you get a flavour of the language. China’s legitimate right to development has been unreasonably suppressed by people who are trying to sabotage this relationship.

He also warned Anthony Blinken, the US should not intervene in China’s internal affairs, suppress China’s development or trample on China’s red lions involving its sovereignty, security and development interests. So very tough talk indeed. But then again, that is what we expected from both of these governments. Peter Greece is the director of Manchester China Institute. He explained the significance of Blinken’s visit to China. I think it’s very important.

I think the name of the game on this trip is man managing competition. I think these sort of binaries of cooperation versus conflict are a little bit dangerous because they’re sort of part of pointing fingers at each other. Instead, what the two sides should be focusing on is the process of talking to one another, managing expectations and providing the kind of lanes for communication that will prevent any future conflicts.

But it’s very clear that the list of challenging issues that separate the US and China remain. And arguably with Ukraine and some of the recent developments on funding the defense of Taiwan, the issues are getting bigger as well. So amongst those areas of friction, where do you expect there to be any progress, or do you think that’s actually not likely on this visit? Probably the one area of agreement, although whether there can be actual substantive success or not, is in the desire for greater people to people exchange.

Right now we have a tremendous asymmetry between the number of chinese students in the US and in the Europe and the UK, on the one hand, versus the number of western students in China. The number of us students in China is extremely small, smaller still for the UK. And there is an agreement that more american, british european students in China would be good for everyone. It will increase understanding of each other’s side.

It’s no panacea for the relationship, but it is at least something that both sides can agree could be worked on together and productively. And the chinese side is actually putting some money behind it, offering scholarships to western students. And just to go back to the current situation, how much difference do you think does the passing of the bill in Congress make to the relationship now? It’s one more thing. You know, the funding for Taiwan is something that angers Beijing significantly.

The Xi Jinping administration has made reunification with Taiwan central to its promise to the chinese people. Of achieving the China dream of prosperity and respect. And so this is seen as blocking that effort, blocking China’s rise to its rightful place at the top of the international hierarchy. So it’s arguably up there, together with the Ukraine and the impact that the Ukraine is having on western views of China, it’s really a game changer, not just in terms of how Americans view China, but increasingly how Europeans are becoming more and more disillusioned about China because it is funding the rearming of Russia and supporting it with semiconductors and machine tools.

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