US-China talks, Beijing: “Relations at lowest point since 1979, it’s not in our interest”. Blinken: “Constructive meeting”

by FQ | JUNE 18, 2023

Black smoke after the first thaw attempts between the United States and China . Today, June 18, was the long-awaited day of the meeting between the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken , and the Chinese Foreign Minister, Qin Gang , which could have been a first step towards resolving the disputes between the two countries, with consequences on dossiers of primary importance in the field of security, from Taiwan to Ukraine. But the 6-hour visit by the head of US diplomacy, the highest-level since his predecessor in 2018, and the first of this magnitude under the Biden administration, does not seem to have borne fruit. While the US State Department spoke of “frank”, “substantive” and “constructive” talks , with Blinken underlining the importance of diplomacy and maintaining open channels of communication on the whole range of issues to reduce the risk of misperception and miscalculation,” the comment from Beijing’s Foreign Ministry was frosty: relations are at their “lowest point” since 1979 , when the two countries officially launched diplomatic relations at the embassy level.

What leaves hope open, however, is the fact that the secretary of state invited his counterpart to another meeting in Washington and that the latter accepted. The same is true if one listens to the motivation given by the Chinese establishment to the initial declarations: in fact, they explained that this situation “does not conform to the fundamental interests of the two peoples , nor does it meet the common expectations of the international community”, recalling that the relationship towards the United States has “always maintained continuity and stability and is fundamentally based on the principles of mutual respect , peaceful coexistence and beneficial cooperationfor everyone”. For this reason, the minister reiterated, Beijing is committed “to building stable, predictable and constructive Sino-American relations. It is hoped that the US side supports an objective and rational understanding of China,” meets it “halfway, maintains the political foundations of bilateral relations, and handles unexpected incidents calmly, professionally, and rationally.”

But the points to be clarified and the distances to be filled remain many. However, the most difficult differences to overcome concern the idea of ​​the future of the two leaders, Joe Biden and Xi Jinping . On the one hand there is China, an ever-growing power that aspires to a new world order that surpasses the current unipolar system that sees the United States as the hegemonic power . On the other, precisely, the USA which instead wants to preserve the status quo , stemming the rise of Beijing and other emerging countries. A vision of the future that is difficult to reconcile, so much so that the points of contact can perhaps be found in the individual dossiers.

The first on Beijing ‘s agenda is certainly that of Taiwan . The tension between the two countries has risen dramatically in recent years: there has been Beijing’s support for Moscow , while the United States and the NATO bloc have given full support to the Ukrainian cause, without forgetting the shooting down of Chinese spy balloons over the skies Americans. All episodes that have often led Washington to carry out provocative actions in the Taiwan Strait , the real exposed nerve of the People’s Republic which does not accept meddling in the clash with the executive in Taipei with autonomist aspirations. The “One China” principlehe is a red line for Beijing and was also married in the past by the United States. This is why Xi Jinping and his entourage have repeatedly called on America asking to respect him. Even Blinken, on the sidelines of the meeting, explained that Minister Qin Gang explained China’s position and formulated clear requests “on the question of Taiwan and on China’s fundamental interests and main concerns. The Taiwan issue is the focus of China’s fundamental interests, the most important issue in Sino-US relations, and the most important risk.”

Then there is the Ukrainian question . Here the meeting points appear greater. If on the one hand Beijing has promised Moscow “friendship without limits” , it is also true that this does not translate into a true alliance, least of all from a military point of view. It is no coincidence that the People’s Republic has never, at least formally, supplied weapon systems to Vladimir Putin ‘s army , but limited itself to guaranteeing the purchase of enormous quantities of gas (at a good price) from the Federation, thus supporting its ‘economy. But the Dragonhe also knows that a break with the so-called Western bloc is not a practicable path: he shares with it what are by far the most fruitful commercial exchanges which should experience further strengthening as the Belt and Road Initiative project progresses . Support for Moscow is only the latest weapon with which Beijing is trying to corner Washington, relying on the Kremlin ‘s will to undermine the unipolar world order. But China is not willing to sacrifice business in the name of Moscow.