Blinken’s trip to China is fraught with tension and uncertainty. When your relationship reaches a rough patch, nothing helps more than some face time to show you still care. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is taking a high-risk, low-confidence mission to China. Having the world’s two largest economies at odds is a serious matter.
Tensions have been high as of late. This includes several unpleasant military contacts in the Pacific and the postponement of Blinken’s scheduled trip to Beijing in February due to an alleged Chinese spy balloon that President Joe Biden ordered shot down after it floated over the US.
During his two-day visit, Blinken and Chinese officials may discuss a wide range of issues, including those related to Taiwan, trade disputes, China’s support for Russia’s conflict against Ukraine, and a US prohibition on advanced technology exports to China, as reported by my colleague Iain Marlow.
Dan Kritenbrink, an assistant secretary of state, has stated that the trip is meant to “at a minimum reduce the risk of miscalculation so that we do not veer into potential conflict.”
Some attempts at thawing relations between the two countries have been made. Last month, Jake Sullivan, the White House’s national security advisor, met with Wang Yi, China’s senior diplomat, in Vienna. Both the Chinese commerce minister and CIA director William Burns visited the United States.
However, in the midst of a heated argument, the fragile web of communication might not hold. US officials have said that China’s continued resistance to military-to-military discussions raises the likelihood that a miscalculation may occur.
Blinken’s reception by Chinese President Xi Jinping remains uncertain. However, this trip may pave the way for visits from other cabinet members including Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.
There would be significant gains if personal connections, on which diplomacy often relies, could be repaired. The world may feel little less tense after Blinken’s visit.
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