Chinese Foreign Minister Meets US Envoy, Insists

Usman Deen
Usman Deen

Global Courant 2023-05-08 15:44:55

Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang met with the US ambassador to China in Beijing on Monday in a possible hint of a thaw in relations between the two powers after months of mounting tension.

Mr Qin told the ambassador, Nicholas Burns, that a “top priority” was to stabilize relations, “avoid a downward spiral and prevent accidents between China and the United States,” according to China’s official account of the meeting.

The meeting marked one of the highest level meetings between US and Chinese officials since relations deteriorated in February after the appearance and subsequent downing of a high-altitude Chinese balloon over the mainland United States. The Pentagon said China had used the balloon for espionage; Beijing has maintained the balloon was a civilian airship blown off course, accusing the United States of overreacting.

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Relations deteriorated further after Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken publicly warned in February that China could prepare to give arms and ammunition to Russia for its war against Ukraine, a claim Beijing dismissed as fake news.

In the three months since, China has mounted a campaign of anti-American rhetoric, trying to drive a wedge between the United States and Europe, which is divided over how closely it should align with Washington’s more aggressive policy on Beijing.

During Mr Qin’s meeting with Mr Burns, the Chinese official accused Washington of derailing progress in the relationship after President Biden’s meeting with China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, in Bali, Indonesia, in November. Mr Qin blamed “a series of erroneous words and actions” by the United States for undermining “the hard-won positive momentum of Sino-US relations,” according to the Chinese read out.

Mr Qin said he hoped the Biden administration could “think deeply” and put the relationship “back on track”. To do that, Washington had to respect “China’s bottom line” regarding things like Taiwan, the self-governing island claimed by Beijing. Mr Qin said the United States “supported and approved of Taiwan independence separatist forces”.

China reacted angrily to a visit last month by President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan to the United States. Ms. Tsai met Speaker of the House of Representatives Kevin McCarthy in what was the highest face-to-face meeting for a leader of Taiwan in the United States since Beijing established relations with Washington in 1979.

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In a post on Twittersaid mr. Burns that he and Mr. Qin “discussed challenges in the US-China relationship and the need to stabilize ties and expand high-level communications.”

The meeting between Mr Qin and Mr Burns comes after months of failed attempts by the United States to reconnect with China, and follows Mr Blinken’s recent expressions of optimism that he may be able to reschedule a visit to Beijing that Washington had called off after the balloon incident.

At a virtual event last week, Mr. Burns that the United States and Chinadeeper channelsof communications and that Washington was “ready to talk.”

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While China had largely frozen high-level contacts with the United States, Mr. Xi worked on strengthening ties with US allies and polishing his image as a world statesman. He has worked to restore ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran, hosted President Emmanuel Macron of France and called President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine. China also announced on Monday that Mr. Qin was due to visit Germany, France and Norway this week.

“It’s a positive sign that they’ve met,” said Paul Haenle, former director for China on the National Security Council in both the Bush and Obama administrations.

Mr Haenle said meeting with Mr Burns will benefit Mr Qin when he travels to Europe, where China and the United States have been called upon to ease tensions between them.

Chinese Foreign Minister Meets US Envoy, Insists

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