US Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets  with China's Foreign Minister Qin Gang
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with China's Foreign Minister Qin Gang at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, China, June 18, 2023. Image Credit: Reuters

Beijing: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken stressed the importance of keeping open lines of communication to reduce the risk of miscalculation in talks with the Chinese foreign minister on Sunday, and the two agreed to meet again in Washington.

As the first US secretary of state to visit China in five years, Blinken held “candid, substantive, and constructive talks” with People’s Republic of China (PRC) State Councilor and Foreign Minister Qin Gang, a State Department spokesman said.

Before the talks, US officials saw little chance of any breakthrough on the long list of disputes between the world’s two largest economies, which range from trade and US efforts to hold back China’s semiconductor industry to the status of self-governed Taiwan and Beijing’s human rights record.

“The secretary emphasised the importance of diplomacy and maintaining open channels of communication across the full range of issues to reduce the risk of misperception and miscalculation,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said.

“The secretary raised a number of issues of concern, as well as opportunities to explore cooperation on shared transnational issues with the PRC where our interests align,” Miller added in a statement.

He said Blinken invited Qin to visit Washington “to continue the discussions, and they agreed to schedule a reciprocal visit at a mutually suitable time.” Blinken, who postponed a February China trip after a suspected Chinese spy balloon flew over US airspace, is the highest-ranking US government official to visit since President Joe Biden took office in January 2021.

Qin greeted Blinken and his group at the door to a villa in the grounds of Beijing’s Diaoyutai State Guest House, rather than inside the building as is customary.

The two made small talk as they walked in, Qin asking Blinken in English about his long trip from Washington. They then shook hands in front of a Chinese and an American flag.

After heading into a meeting room, neither Blinken nor Qin made comments in front of reporters who were briefly allowed in.

Their meeting lasted 5-1/2 hours, a State Department spokesperson said, before they moved to a working dinner.

Chinese assistant foreign minister Hua Chunying, who is attending the meeting, tweeted above a picture of Qin and Blinken shaking hands: “Hope this meeting can help steer China-U.S. relations back to what the two Presidents agreed upon in Bali.” Biden and Xi held long-awaited first face-to-face talks on the sidelines of a summit of the Group of 20 big economies in November on the Indonesian island of Bali, engaging in blunt talks over Taiwan and North Korea but also pledging more frequent communication.

During his stay through Monday, Blinken is also expected to meet with China’s top diplomat Wang Yi and possibly President Xi Jinping.

US officials have since last week played down the prospect of a major breakthrough during the trip, but said Blinken’s primary goal was to establish open and durable communication channels to ensure strategic rivalry between the two countries does not spiral into conflict.

US officials and analysts expect Blinken’s visit will pave the way for more bilateral meetings between Washington and Beijing in coming months, including possible trips by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo. It could also set the stage for meetings between Xi and Biden at multilateral summits later in the year.