US Secretary of State Anrthony Blinken will make up for a visit to China at the end of the week

After serious diplomatic disagreements between Washington and Beijing, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is traveling to China at the end of the week. The State Department in Washington officially announced on Wednesday that Blinken would leave for Beijing on Friday. In the past few days there had already been unconfirmed media reports about an upcoming trip, which the ministry had initially not commented on. Blinken is making up for a long-planned trip that he canceled at the last minute in early February due to allegations of espionage against China.

The Foreign Ministry said Blinken will meet with senior officials from the Chinese government during his visit to Beijing. Among other things, it is about maintaining open channels of communication between the two countries in order to shape relations responsibly. Blinken will also address bilateral concerns, global and regional issues, and possible areas of cooperation. Shortly before, Blinken had called his Chinese counterpart Qin Gang.

Relations between the US and China are generally strained over a whole list of issues. President Joe Biden’s government sees China as the greatest geopolitical challenge and is taking a tough stance on Beijing. At the beginning of February, a dispute over alleged Chinese spying operations had further strained the relationship.

US-China relations strained over list of issues

The US military shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon off the American coast. The United States accused China of using it to spy on military facilities. Beijing, on the other hand, spoke of a civilian research balloon that had gone off course and complained that the Americans had completely overreacted. The United States followed suit and accused China of running a large international espionage program, which Beijing also rejected.

Blinken called off an imminent visit to China at short notice in early February because of the espionage scandal. Blinken met the top Chinese foreign policy leader, Wang Yi, later in February on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference. However, the meeting did not bring about any real relaxation. Blinken always emphasized that he wanted to travel to China as soon as the circumstances were right. In recent months, however, there has been little exchange between the two sides. US President Joe Biden defended the launch of the balloon and at the same time tried to de-escalate it. However, China reacted coolly to offers of talks from Washington over a longer period.

Finally there was some movement. In May, after a long radio silence, high-ranking representatives of both governments met again: Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, met Wang Yi in Vienna. The US side said afterwards that they were ready to put the recent espionage affair behind them. Finally, in early June, a high-ranking official from the US State Department traveled to China. This was interpreted as preparation for Blinken’s forthcoming visit.

Military aircraft from both countries over the South China Sea sparked new discussions

However, even the cautious communicative approach was not without complications: A few days ago, an incident involving military aircraft from both countries over the South China Sea triggered new discussions. The US government accused China of an “unnecessarily aggressive” interception. Shortly thereafter, the US reported an incident between two ships in the Taiwan Strait. The US government has repeatedly emphasized that such incidents could lead to misunderstandings and misjudgments – it is therefore extremely important to keep the communication channels between Washington and Beijing and also between the military of both countries open.

Shortly before Blinken’s travel announcement, new allegations of China’s attempts to spy on the United States became public. Blinken said a few days ago that China has been using the island of Cuba, which is close to the United States, for some time to collect intelligence information. He was responding to reports in the Wall Street Journal.

China’s backing for Russia’s war in Ukraine, threats from Beijing against Taiwan and the ongoing trade war between the two countries are also causing disputes between the two sides.

Hank Peter

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