US and China seek to thaw tensions and pave the way for a meeting between Biden and Xi

The United States and China are seeking to thaw the icy tensions between the two global superpowers and pave the way for a face-to-face meeting between President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping later this year.

Xi’s hosting of Secretary of State Antony Blinken at a private meeting Monday in Beijing signals the seriousness with which China is open to mending ties.

While Xi rejected Blinken’s request for a direct military-to-military hotline that would serve to quickly resolve clashes, the Chinese leader gave the go-ahead to his top aides to schedule face-to-face talks in Washington.

In remarks ahead of the meeting with Blinken, Xi said he intended to return to the “common understandings” reached with Biden when they met last year in Bali, Indonesia, and he called for “stabilizing China-US relations”.

Biden considered dealing personally with Xi to manage the United States’ relationship with China as one of the most significant challenges of his presidency and his political legacy — a challenge that has already become a key point of attack. Republicans ahead of the 2024 election.

GOP lawmakers have issued a flurry of criticism of Biden in response to reports that the administration withheld China sanctions in an effort to improve relations. They also referred to the earlier trip by senior State Department officials to Beijing on the anniversary of the June 4 Tiananmen Square massacre.

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, called Biden’s strategy a “misguided and myopic pursuit of engagement.”

In the Senate, Republicans sent a letter to Biden last week urging him to “stand up to Beijing’s efforts to silence the United States,” following a Financial Times report that China was blocking Blinken’s visit to the country due to FBI concerns. would publish the results of its investigation into the Chinese spy balloon, discovered in the United States in February.

Biden has framed his China strategy as investing in the United States and mending ties with allies to better challenge Beijing — economically, diplomatically, technologically and militarily.

At the same time, Biden said China’s cooperation was needed to address the existential threats of climate change, prevent the next pandemic and improve the global economy.

It’s a difficult balance where Beijing has used the US’s desire for cooperation as leverage for its priorities, cutting communication channels in retaliation for US support for Taiwan, making Washington the aggressor in response to sanctions over violations. human rights and civil oppression.

Despite hosting the secretary of state, Xi still maintained a hard line on Monday, rejecting Blinken’s request to set up a direct hotline that would serve to quickly resolve tensions – with close calls between planes and warships in the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait in recent weeks. highlighting the danger.

Still, a priority for Xi is countering China’s slowing economy. He is considered a major threat to the stability and legitimacy of the regime, and a dialogue with the United States is necessary.

The Chinese leader is under pressure over fears that Biden will issue an executive order limiting US investment in the country on national security grounds.

Ahead of Blinken’s visit, the administration added 43 international companies with ties to the Chinese military to its “entity list,” barring them from accessing U.S. technology and “know-how,” citing the Chinese efforts to learn maneuvers and tactics from Western aircraft for the development of hypersonic weapons. , among other concerns.

And while Biden officials say efforts to diversify supply chains and trade deals out of China are about investing in redundancy, Beijing sees those actions as a form of aggression.

Blinken said one of the most important points he made on his trip was “to disabuse our Chinese hosts of the idea that we are looking to contain them economically.”

Shirley Yu, a fellow at the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard Kennedy School, said China intends to reset economic relations with the United States, even if it rejects Biden’s position on Taiwan and Other Critics of Washington.

Xi is seeking to host Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo to “potentially provide much needed economic relief that China is hoping for.”

But will this lead to a summit meeting between Xi and Biden? Yu said it was not a high priority for the Chinese leader.

“From China’s perspective, a meeting of heads of state is not urgent but probably necessary to convene at some point,” she said.

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