Blinken makes ‘baby steps’ in bid to revive US-China ties

United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken has met China’s top diplomat Wang Yi in Beijing as the two countries take steps to repair their strained relationship.

The duo posed for a photo on Monday at Beijing’s Diaoyutai State Guesthouse before heading into diplomatic talks.

t is still unclear if Blinken will meet Chinese President Xi Jinping later in the day before he concludes his two-day trip to the country and flies to London.

The meeting with Wang Yi follows a similar meet-up between Blinken and Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang on Sunday, which the US State Department described as a “candid, substantive, and constructive” effort to maintain “open channels of communication”.

With talks lasting more than seven hours, Blinken also invited Qin Gang to the US on a follow-up trip to maintain high-level contact between Chinese and American officials.

The Chinese readout of the meeting was also largely positive and said that both sides agreed to increase commercial flights between China and the US as well as encourage more people-to-people exchanges through student, academic and business groups.

It also mentioned Xi and US President Joe Biden’s meeting in Bali last year, when both leaders promised to take more concrete action to improve communication.

While Blinken’s trip has so far been largely symbolic, it does appear to have gone well given the relatively low expectations around it, said Bonnie Glaser, the managing director of the German Marshall Fund’s Indo-Pacific Program.

“Given the deep mistrust in the relationship, so far the visit has gone better than I expected. There was zero chance of a breakthrough. We can only hope for baby steps toward a new modus vivendi in the relationship,” she told Al Jazeera by email.

Blinken was originally set to visit China in February but his trip was delayed by the discovery of an alleged Chinese spy balloon flying over the US and collecting information on domestic military sites.

His trip is the most senior by a US official to China since 2019, thanks in part to COVID-19 travel restrictions, and follows several months of increased contact between top US and Chinese officials abroad and by virtual meeting.

Biden said over the weekend that he hopes to meet Xi again in the coming months, an event that would probably take place at the annual summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) grouping in California later this year.


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