U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken canceled his trip to China in February when a Chinese balloon drifted off course into the U.S. and was shot down for suspicion of spy activity. It turned out the balloon was a weather balloon showing no evidence of spy action. Then Blinken sought another chance to visit Beijing to have a dialogue to lessen the U.S.-China tension. Finally, China agreed to receive Blinken on June 18-19 to have a diplomatic dialogue. There are many commentary articles appeared after Blinken's China trip all focusing on diagnosing the real significance of Blinken's 7.5 hours of meeting with his counter part, Chinese Foreign Minister Qing Gang, and subsequent short meetings with Wang Yi, politburo member in charge of foreign affairs, and President Xi Jinping. In general, the analysts concluded that the trip did not produce any significant results beyond a chance for both sides to voice their concerns and agreed to maintain channels of communication except in military affairs. Post Blinken's trip, President Biden in a campaign speech called President Xi a dictator which erased any warm feelings Blinken cultivated in Beijing. Queried by a reporter, Biden defended his remark and commented that China will be as eager as the U.S. to keep a dialogue. This author does not know how Biden acquired his confidence that the Chinese leaders would continue to accept the U.S. behavior: “say one thing and do another or vice versa”. But based on the readouts released from both sides after Blinken's China trip, one could clearly see the fundamental problems between the two great nations. China had repeatedly expressed its principles in conducting its foreign policies and sought the understanding and cooperation from the U.S. But the U.S. seemed to prefer taking a vague (two-faced) position and conducting an ambiguous (double-standard) policy in dealing with China. In fact, the Blinken trip has revealed the fundamental problems which led to the current U.S.-China relations. In this article, this author shall make a sincere attempt to explain how U.S.China relations had evolved to the present state and what the future may be.
First, let's have a brief review of the U.S. readout about the Blinken China trip: “The two sides had candid, substantive, and constructive discussions on key priorities in the bilateral relationship and on a range of global and regional issues. The Secretary emphasized the importance of maintaining open channels of communication across the full range of issues to reduce the risk of miscalculation. Both sides welcomed strengthening people-to-people exchanges between students, scholars, and businesses. This includes a commitment to working to increase the number of direct flights between the two countries. He discussed U.S. de-risking policies and the historic domestic investments the Administration has made. The Secretary raised concerns about PRC human rights violations in Xinjiang, Tibet, and Hong Kong,and individual cases of concern. He emphasized that the United States will always stand up for our values. The Secretary underscored the importance of maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and reiterated there has been no change to the U.S. one China policy, based on the Taiwan Relations Act, the three Joint Communiques, and the Six Assurances. The two sides discussed a range of global and regional security issues, including Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, the DPRK’s provocative actions, and U.S. concerns with PRC intelligence activities in Cuba. The Secretary made clear that the United States will work with its allies and partners to advance our vision for a world that is free, open, and upholds the rules-based international order.” The above readout essentially repeats what the Biden Administration has been persistently saying, which, in essence, means whatever actions we do against China are to advance our vision whether they harm China or not.
Next, let's make a brief review of the Chinese readout after Blinken's China trip: According to the Chinese readout, Xi lectured Blinken that competition “does not represent the trend of the times” and that it would not help “solve America’s own problems or the challenges facing the world.” The Chinese president also expressed that China does not seek to challenge or displace the United States and called on Washington to respect China’s “legitimate rights and interests” in turn. Wang is quoted listing Washington’s transgressions, including hyping up the “China threat,” “suppressing China’s scientific and technological advances” through “illegal unilateral sanctions,” and “interfering in China’s internal affairs,” particularly around Taiwan. The Blinken-Qin meeting is in a more business-like tone. The Chinese press release did include a list of agreements between the two sides such as a follow-up visit to the U.S. by Qin, the resumption of issue-specific working groups (although military communication was excluded), and the expansion of people-to-people exchanges and passenger flights between the two countries. China's position is clear and precise, consistent with its three principles, “mutual respect, peaceful coexistence, and win-win cooperation.” for guiding the U.S.-China relationship. Both Xi and Wang conveyed the notion that while Beijing is willing to live harmoniously with the U.S., Washington is rejecting a rational and pragmatic approach towards China causing a tense U.S.-China relationship. From the Chinese readout, one can see that China has been patiently reiterating China's diplomatic principles and its sincerity in pursuing a friendly relationship with the U.S. but the U.S is to blame for the deterioration of bilateral relations. This view is widely shared among Chinese people but unfortunately many Americans hold the opposite view.
It is obvious that the Blinken China trip failed in resolving any difference between the U.S. and China as seen from the above readouts. However, it did provide one more chance for both sides to express frankly the viewpoints of each other. The agreements to have further dialogue and exchanges are better than no interaction. China appears to be more resolved after experiencing many flip-flops of the U.S.-China policy. Unable to convince the U.S. to accept China's three principles, China apparently has decided to accept the U.S. as a hostile competitor preparing for the worst. China will act firmly in defending its interests just as firmly as the U.S. does for itself. China is preparing to counter the U.S. sanctions with self-reliance and cooperation with friendly partners. The change from 'de-coupling' to 'de-risking' would only send another untrustworthy flip-flop message to China. China with its shear population, market size, and resolution would most likely out run its competition. Ultimately, the competition depends on people, diligent, productive and talented people. China has at least twice as many bachelor's degree graduates each year (2020) as the U.S. produces. In engineering degrees, China produces 600,000 and the U.S. produces only 70,000 per year. It is not difficult to expect that China will win in the technology race eventually. However, Blinken's trip did open a door for further dialogue, U.S. Treasurer Yellen may make the next trip. We hope with more officials visiting China, the U.S. will understand sooner that a collaborative relationship with China will be a win-win relationship!
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Lily Lee Chen
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