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US and China should be 'partners,' Xi tells Blinken

April 26, 2024

US top diplomat Antony Blinken and Chinese President Xi Jinping struck a positive note on progress in relations, adding that difficult issues, like trade or differences over Taiwan, can be worked through.

Flags of the US and China sit in a room where U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with China's Minister of Public Security Wang Xiaohong
Relations between US and China improved the last year, but a number of issues separate the countriesImage: Mark Schiefelbein/AP Photo/picture alliance

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing on the last day of his China tour Friday, where he stressed that it was important to manage bilateral relations responsibly.

"We are committed to maintaining and strengthening lines of communication to advance that agenda, and again deal responsibly with our differences so we avoid any miscommunications, any misperceptions, any miscalculations," Blinken said at a news conference.

Xi told Blinken the two "countries should be partners, not rivals," Chinese state broadcaster CCTV reported. 

"There are still a number of issues that need to be resolved, and there is still room for further efforts," CCTV cited the Chinese leader as having told Blinken. 

"We hope the US can also take a positive view of China's development," Xi said. "When this fundamental problem is solved... relations can truly stabilize, get better, and move forward." 

Blinken discussed concerns about "PRC support to the Russian defense industrial base" as well as Taiwan, the South China Sea and the situation in Middle East, according to State Department spokesman Matthew Miller.

US-China economic and tech competition 

Blinken said it was important to ensure healthy competition on economic and technology fronts. 

China is responsible for one-third of global production but one-tenth of global demand, which leads to a trade mismatch, Blinken said. 

Chinese goods are sold for lower prices, and that's something the US "stands against," he said.

China's multibillion-dollar trade surplus with the US, along with accusations of intellectual property theft, have long been sources of friction in bilateral relations.

Wang Yi, Antony Blinken underline need to strengthen ties

It's not just a US concern, but also one of European partners, Blinken said.

"It is not about containing China or cutting off trade and investment," it is also about making sure trading practices proceed "fairly," he added.

China's support for Russia 

Regarding China's support for Russia's defense base, Blinken said he was "extremely" clear in expressing US concerns during the visit, adding that China has demonstrated in the past that it can take positive action. 

"It is now absolutely critical" that China stops supporting Russia as it has been, Blinken said. 

The US has said Chinese support comes in the form of arms, but also machines that can be retooled for military purposes.

European partners are equally wary about the situation, Blinken said.

"Russia would struggle to sustain its assault on Ukraine without China's support," he added. 

State Department officials said before the meeting began that Washington was prepared to act against Chinese companies helping to resupply Russia's defense industry.

Relations have improved the last year but still 'fragile'

Earlier in the day, Blinken met his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing's ancient gardens for a five-and-a-half-hour discussion on a number of contentious issues.

After the talks, Wang said US-China ties were "beginning to stabilize."

However, Wang added that differences persist and continue to grow, making talks more difficult.

"The negative factors in the relationship are still increasing and building and the relationship is facing all kinds of disruptions," Wang said.

Blinken sounded a positive note on recent progress made in bilateral cooperation, including in military communications, counter-narcotics and artificial intelligence.

DW correspondent Fabian Kretschmer explained that the relationship was "fragile" given the two countries continue to compete on trade and tech fronts.

Still, relations have improved since early last year when the US government accused China of trying to collect sensitive information by flying an alleged spy balloon over US airspace, Kretschmer said.

China's foreign minister warns of potential for 'downward spiral' in relations with US

Differences over South China Sea, Taiwan

China's determination to assert its disputed sovereignty over the entirety of the South China Sea has sparked numerous clashes with its neighbors, including countries that are allies of the US. One such country and US ally is the Philippines.

Wang outlined, without being specific, Chinese complaints about US policies on the South China Sea and Taiwan. "China's legitimate development rights have been unreasonably suppressed and our core interests are facing challenges," he said.

Blinken said he raised Beijing's "dangerous actions in the South China Sea" and "made clear that while the US will continue to de-escalate tensions, our defense commitments to the Philippines remain ironclad."

Blinken added that the Biden administration placed a premium on US-China dialogue even on issues of dispute. He said there had been some progress in relations in the past year, but added that talks would continue to be difficult.

The meeting between the top diplomats followed a summit in November when US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping met in San Francisco.

Ahead of the meetings, Wang asked: "Should China and the United States keep in the right direction of moving forward with stability, or return to a downward spiral?"

Tensions rise with China over US aid bill for Taiwan

US seeking 'active diplomacy'

Blinken's visit to China, which began Wednesday, came as US President Joe Biden signed a bill earmarking $8 billion (€7.5 billion) to counter China's growing aggressiveness toward Taiwan and in the South China Sea. 

It also follows a decision by the US government that seeks to force TikTok's China-based parent company to sell the social media platform.

Despite the contentious issues, Blinken said he would be looking for "active diplomacy."

He added that the countries should be clear "about the areas where we have differences — at the very least to avoid misunderstandings, to avoid miscalculations."

"That really is a shared responsibility that we have not only for our own people, but for people around the world," he said.

rm,km/sms (Reuters, AFP, AP)