Blinken warns Foreign Minister Wang of the dangers of misunderstandings and miscalculations in U.S.-China ties

The United States and China are butting heads over a number of contentious bilateral, regional and global issues as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets senior Chinese officials, including President Xi Jinping

Published - April 26, 2024 02:49 pm IST - BEIJING

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi | Photo Credit: AFP

The United States and China butted heads over a number of contentious bilateral, regional and global issues as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met on April 26 with senior Chinese officials and warned of the dangers of misunderstandings and miscalculations.

Also Read: Antony Blinken begins key China visit as tensions rise over new U.S. foreign aid bill

Mr. Blinken's discussions started with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and then Public Security Minister Wang Xiaohong, who said Blinken would also see President Xi Jinping — a meeting that had been expected but not previously announced by either said. A State Department official confirmed that Blinken would meet the president before leaving the country.

Talks between the two sides have increased in recent months, even as differences have grown. Mr. Blinken and Mr. Wang underscored the importance of keeping lines of communication open, but they also lamented that divisions were becoming more serious in nature.

They each underscored the importance of keeping lines of communication open but they also lamented persistent and deepening divisions that threaten global security. Those divisions were highlighted earlier this week when U.S. President Joe Biden signed a massive foreign aid bill that contains several elements that the Chinese see as problematic.

Their comments hinted at a long list of differences to be discussed, including Taiwan and the South China Sea, and trade and human rights, China’s support for Russia and the production and export of synthetic opioid precursors.

“Overall, the China-U.S. relationship is beginning to stabilize,” Mr. Wang told Mr. Blinken at the start of about 5 1/2 hours of talks. “But at the same time, the negative factors in the relationship are still increasing and building and the relationship is facing all kinds of disruptions.”

“Should China and the United States keep to the right direction of moving forward with stability or return to a downward spiral?” he asked. “This is a major question before our two countries and tests our sincerity and ability.”

Wang also outlined, without being specific, well-known Chinese complaints about U.S. policies and positions on the South China Sea, Taiwan, human rights and China’s right to conduct relations with countries it deems fit.

“China’s legitimate development rights have been unreasonably suppressed and our core interests are facing challenges,” he said. “China’s concerns are consistent. We have always called for respect of each other’s core interests and urge the United States not to interfere in China’s internal affairs, not to hold China’s development back, and not to step on China’s red lines on China’s sovereignty, security, and development interests.”

Mr. Blinken responded by saying that the Biden administration places a premium on U.S. - China dialogue even on issues of dispute. He noted there had been some progress in the past year but suggested that talks would continue to be difficult.

“I look forward to these discussions being very clear, very direct about the areas where we have differences and where the United States stands, and I have no doubt you will do the same on behalf of China,” Mr. Blinken told Mr. Wang.

“There is no substitute in our judgement for face-to-face diplomacy in order to try to move forward, but also to make sure we’re as clear as possible about the areas where we have differences at the very least to avoid misunderstandings, to avoid miscalculations,” he said.

The State Department said later that Mr. Blinken and Mr. Wang had “in-depth, substantive, and constructive discussions about areas of difference as well as areas of cooperation” and made clear that Mr. Blinken had stood his ground on U.S. concerns.

Mr. Blinken “emphasized that the U.S. will continue to stand up for our interests and values and those of our allies and partners, including on human rights and economic issues,” State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a statement.

Mr. Blinken arrived in China on Wednesday, visiting Shanghai shortly before Mr. Biden signed the $95 billion foreign aid package that has several elements likely to anger Beijing, including $8 billion to counter China’s growing aggressiveness toward Taiwan and in the South China Sea. It also seeks to force TikTok’s China-based parent company to sell the social media platform.

China and the United States are the major players in the Indo-Pacific. Washington has become increasingly alarmed by Beijing’s growing aggressiveness in recent years toward Taiwan and its smaller Southeast Asian neighbors with which it has significant territorial and maritime disputes in the South China Sea.

China has railed against U.S. assistance to Taiwan and immediately condemned the aid as a dangerous provocation. It also strongly opposes efforts to force TikTok’s sale.

The bill also allots $61 billion for Ukraine to defend itself from Russia’s invasion. The Biden administration has complained loudly that Chinese support for Russia’s military-industrial sector has allowed Moscow to subvert western sanctions and ramp up attacks on Ukraine.

U.S. officials have said China’s ties with Russia would be a primary topic of conversation during Blinken’s visit, and just before Friday’s meetings began, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced he would visit China in May.

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