US Secretary of State Antony Blinken Photo: AFP
After Bloomberg broke the news in the US, several media outlets, including CNN and Reuters, also claimed that the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will visit China in the coming weeks based on anonymous leaks from US officials. This does not rule out the possibility that the US State Department is playing usual tricks of manipulating public opinion by leaking information to the media. In response, the spokesperson of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated on Wednesday “I have nothing to share on that,” neither confirming nor denying the news. However, one can sense the difference in attitudes between China and the US regarding Blinken’s visit to China.
The attitudes of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Chinese netizens were not like this back in January. At that time, the spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry said that China welcomed Secretary Blinken’s visit and hoped that the US will pursue dialogue and win-win cooperation, not confrontation and zero-sum competition. The peoples of both China and the US, as well as the international community, had certain expectations for Blinken’s visit to China to promote a turnaround in China-US relations. However, in February, the US side overreacted to the “unmanned airship incident” and unilaterally postponed Blinken’s visit to China. This not only ruined a rare opportunity for high-level interaction and communication between China and the US, but also further damaged the mutual trust that has already been at historically low level.
Not long after, the US side once again showed interest and enthusiasm in restoring high-level communication with China. This included calling out to China in various international public occasions and frequently complaining about China’s “ignoring, rejecting, or canceling multiple communication requests” from the US. Coupled with the various actions taken by the US that strongly contrasted with such appealing and aimed at containment and crackdown on China, it gave the impression to the Chinese people that Washington politicians were putting on a show for the international community. We not only will never cooperate with their performance but also need to maintain necessary vigilance against their true intentions behind the show. In this situation, Blinken’s visit to China has deviated from its original purpose of communication.
Before seeing sincerity from the US side, the general sentiment in Chinese society is that it’s necessary to temporarily keep the Americans at arm’s length. We hope that during this period, the US side can regain some calmness and rationality regarding issues related to China. We also hope they can have a deeper understanding of the three principles proposed by the Chinese side for the coexistence of China and the US, which are “mutual respect, peaceful coexistence, and win-win cooperation.”
Regardless of the circumstances, Blinken’s visit to China is not a bad thing, and we certainly would not oppose it. However, it requires the US side to create a positive atmosphere and demonstrate sufficient sincerity and goodwill. Only then can this visit become a positive and substantive action to promote the healthy and stable development of China-US relations. In other words, if Blinken is indeed coming, it should not be turned into a “showy” visit where the form outweighs the substance.
China-US relations have been locked in a stalemate, in which many issues need to be resolved through strengthened communication between both sides. However, the agenda for discussions cannot be solely determined by the US side. The Chinese side has put forth four lists to the US side, i.e. the list of US wrongdoings that must stop, the list of key individual cases that the US must resolve, the list of Acts in the 117th Congress of high concern to China, and the list of cooperation proposals in eight areas. These all require the US side to take them seriously and provide an explanation to the Chinese side.
Many US media outlets claimed that the Taiwan question will be an important topic for Blinken’s visit to China. It must be emphasized to the US side that the Taiwan question is China’s internal affair and there is nothing to discuss with the US. However, the US side does need to explain to the Chinese side its bad policies and wrong actions in instigating “Taiwan independence.” China’s stance and red lines are clear, and its will and ability to maintain national unity and territorial integrity are unshakable. It is recommended that high-ranking officials from Washington review the three joint communiqués between China and the US before visiting China, so as to avoid China having to spend time making up missed lesson for the US.
As a matter of fact, the situation has become very clear now. The US’ “maximum pressure” on China can no longer continue. The US’ intellectuals and business elites have recently broken their years of silence and are increasingly speaking out and making reflections, which has put some pressure on Washington. Therefore, it has to declare that it wants to build “guardrails” and no longer uses radical words such as “decoupling.” Instead, the US says it wants to “de-risk but not decouple.” However, as an article in Foreign Policy said, US leaders and officials love to talk about how they don’t want to “contain” China, but US policy toward Beijing now bends more in that direction than ever, and Washington needs to be “more honest.”
We also note that although the White House has not confirmed the reports of Blinken’s visit, it has expressed “confidence” that the US and China can “get back to the spirit of Bali.” In fact, implementing the Bali consensus reached between the two heads of state is an issue that was long overdue by the US and it should make up for the growing gap as soon as possible. Whether this gap can be repaired and whether the tense nerves of the US-China relationship can be eased to some extent largely depends on whether the US has the sincerity to implement the consensus of the heads of state and repair the relationship between the two sides during its contact with China, or whether it is trying to test China’s bottom line or even trying to pressure China to make concessions during the talks.