Blingen’s visit to China comes as Beijing faces economic challenges

Anticipation of Foreign Secretary Anthony Blinken’s imminent visit to Beijing was, at best, tepid.

After months of diplomatic deadlock following the discovery of a Chinese balloon floating over the United States — which derailed Blingen’s original trip to Beijing in February — Chinese and American officials face a yawning gap between their interests and positions.

A trip isn’t likely to do much to change that.

“In fact, the Chinese side is not confident that Blinken’s visit will lead to any meaningful results. You can say that China has no confidence in this meeting,” said Wang Yong, director of Peking University’s Center for International Political Economy.

Blinken, he said, “probably wouldn’t be very welcome.”

In a phone call with Blinken on Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang said “it’s clear where the responsibility lies” when it comes to the challenges facing the US-China relationship.

Behind China’s frosty reception lies a new hope. For months, China has hosted world leaders, including US partners such as French President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission President Ursula van der Leyen — and has successfully mediated conflicts such as the Saudi-Iranian rift.

Beijing has offered to do the same in the Ukraine crisis, portraying itself as a peacemaker and failing the United States. Last month, its special representative for Eurasian affairs, Li Hui, traveled to Ukraine and Russia to present China’s proposal to end the conflict.

This week, Xi hosted Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Beijing, where the Chinese presented a three-pronged plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Honduras, which cut ties with Taiwan to recognize China in March, opened an embassy in Beijing on Sunday.

“China has made diplomatic progress and may feel that it is the right conditions to deal with the United States in this situation,” said Zhao Mingao, a professor at Shanghai Fudan University’s Institute of International Studies.

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Even as Beijing tries to establish a separate world order not dominated by the United States, China still needs — and wants — American investment and trade.

China faces sluggish growth, recording property stagnation, high youth unemployment and shrinking foreign investment. China’s central bank cut key interest rates this week and new economic data showed its post-pandemic recovery has lost momentum.

That’s part of why Chinese officials love executives like Bill Gates, who met with Xi on Friday.

Chinese state media reported that the Microsoft co-founder was the first “American friend” he met in Beijing this year, during a meeting with Ge Gates. Xi added that the future of Sino-US relations lies with the people.

JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon, Starbucks CEO Laxman Narasimhan and Tesla and Twitter CEO Elon Musk traveled to Beijing last month to promote their business interests.

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“China hopes that the relationship between China and the United States can be improved to help with its economic recovery and other economic challenges,” said Fudan University’s Zhao.

But it is difficult to separate politics and business. Last week, Sequoia Capital, an early investor in TikTok’s parent ByteDance, said it would separate its China and US operations into separate companies. The ubiquitous video platform faces various restrictions and bans in the US for national security reasons.

At the same time, Chinese officials are sending mixed messages. The crackdown on due diligence firms operating in China, such as Mintz Group and Bain & Company, has unnerved other foreign firms. Foreign executives worry that a recent overhaul of the country’s espionage law could mean ordinary business activities could be deemed illegal.

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For its part, the Biden administration hasn’t made the environment any easier. On Monday, it blacklisted more than 30 Chinese companies for selling US technology to the Chinese military and is expected to set new limits on US investments in China. Washington has already banned the sale of advanced US semiconductors to China.

“Easing ties with the US will help the government’s goal of ‘stable foreign trade, stable foreign investment,'” Zhao said, citing a government campaign that has gained urgency as Chinese officials push for the country to reopen for business.

This is one of the reasons why Chinese officials give the cold shoulder to security and political officials and meet with US trade and commerce officials. Chinese Commerce Minister Wang Wentao met with U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and Trade Representative Catherine Tai last month.

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“Beijing agreed to the visit because it seems to block many things, such as working-level talks and visits by other cabinet members,” said Yun Sun, director of the Washington-based China Project. Stimson Center.

“It is also important that China does not appear to reject dialogue, especially when the United States is pushing for it,” he said.

For China, Special Climate Envoy John F. Kerry or Treasury Secretary Janet L. The visit paved the way for other visits by US officials such as Yellen, whose views on the wrong side of decoupling from China have won her admirers in China.

“We benefit from trade and investment being as open as possible and China benefits,” Yellen said at a House Financial Services Committee hearing on Tuesday.

Chinese officials are eyeing Xi’s possible appearance at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in San Francisco in November, where he could meet with Biden. Their last meeting in November on the sidelines of a 20-member summit in Bali helped ease tensions.

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“If there is hope for any concrete results from this visit, it may be a signal that China’s leader will go to the US to attend APEC,” said Wang, a Peking University professor. For that to happen, Blinken’s arrival would have to create “more favorable conditions,” he said.

Chinese officials have not released any details about Blinken’s visit. Blinken will meet with senior Chinese officials, including Foreign Minister Qin, on Sunday and Monday, the State Department said. It would be a significant snub if Shi didn’t see Blinken after meeting with Gates on Friday.

“Given the current levels of mistrust and tension in the relationship, a good outcome would be a better understanding of each side’s concerns and red lines, as well as modest progress in areas of mutual interest,” said Jessica Chen Weiss, a professor at Cornell University. Focuses on US-China relations.

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According to Peking University’s Wang, China also has areas where it can compromise and cooperate. These include climate change, public health and anti-drug efforts.

Nevertheless, a major sticking point for Beijing remains US support for Taiwan, which China worries undermines the US’ adherence to the “one China” policy. That policy recognizes the People’s Republic of China as China’s sole legal government, but stops short of recognizing Beijing’s claims to Taiwan.

“China has no illusions about the US changing its stance on Taiwan,” said Lau Siu-kai, a distinguished professor in the Department of Sociology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

“Without the possibility of bridging the gap between the two sides on these issues, any rapprochement is impossible.”

Pei-Lin Wu contributed to this report.

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