Saturday, May 25, 2024

Blinken set to meet Chinese leaders as superpowers manage rivalry

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BEIJING — Secretary of State Antony Blinken was set to meet top Chinese leaders on Friday, capping a trip that included a visit to a basketball game and a conversation with Chinese college students with a weightier effort to dial back China’s support for Russia’s defense industry and to get it to crack down on Chinese companies’ role in the global fentanyl trade.

Relations have improved significantly since Blinken last visited 10 months ago, after a Chinese spy balloon’s transit across the United States set off an unusually broad national blowback to China’s espionage activity. Since then, conversations have become far more routine, enabling the world’s two biggest economies and superpower rivals to return to managing their tense but interdependent relationship.

Blinken was expected to meet with China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, for more than six hours on Friday, giving the sides ample time to air their differences about a host of issues that also include reviving military-to-military discussions and China’s frosty relationship with Taiwan. Beijing has also complained about U.S. efforts to cut off Chinese access to advanced semiconductors that would enable it to make progress on artificial intelligence that could have military applications.

Blinken spoke Thursday of “the necessity of direct engagement, of sustained engagement, of speaking to each other, laying out our differences which are real, seeking to work through them,” as well as looking for ways to cooperate.

“We have an obligation for our people and, indeed, an obligation for the world to manage the relationship between our two countries responsibly,” he said in a meeting with Shanghai Communist Party Secretary Chen Jining.

The top U.S. diplomat is also likely to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping, although those kinds of conversations are usually locked down only at the last minute. Xi and President Biden spoke earlier this month by phone and clashed on the subject of export controls, which the Biden administration says are necessary to keep U.S. technology from undermining U.S. security and Beijing complains is simply an effort to restrict its economic rise.

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