Secretary of State Antony Blinken made a long-anticipated trip to China in mid-June, making several key concessions to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and failing to secure a key military communication agreement.
Blinken left for China on Friday and will make his return Wednesday, but has already met with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Director of the CCP Central Foreign Affairs Office Wang Yi and Foreign Minister Qin Gang. Blinken made the trip with the goal of “stabilizing” U.S.-China relations and repeatedly emphasized the Biden administration was not seeking conflict with Beijing.
Blinken said one of his foremost goals was to open up a line of military-to-military direct communication for times of crisis. Despite the priority team Biden placed on this request, the CCP once again turned down the offer, Blinken said Monday.
New: China rejects Blinken proposal to set up military to military communications.
In press briefing to journalists in Beijing, Blinken says China did not agree to set up a crisis military-to-military communications channel, which was one of the biggest hopes for the U.S. visit.
— Bethany 貝書穎 (@BethanyAllenEbr) June 19, 2023
China has rebuffed Biden’s offers for more direct military communications multiple times in recent months, including turning down a recent offer for high-level meetings with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: Chinese Intel Arm Quietly Operates ‘Service Centers’ In 7 US Cities)
Blinken made several eyebrow-raising comments during his public remarks after the meetings, in addition to the revelation about the rejected military hotline. He went out of his way to say the United States does “not support Taiwan independence,” which, according to China’s readout of the meeting, was a specific demand of Wang.
Wang urged the 🇺🇸 side to
▪️truly adhere to the 1-China principle as defined in the three joint communiques between 🇨🇳 and the 🇺🇸
▪️respect China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity
▪️explicitly oppose “Taiwan independence.”
— Moritz Rudolf (@MoritzRudolf) June 19, 2023
The Taiwan assurance contradicts repeated statements by President Joe Biden that the United States would come to Taiwan’s defense if it were subjected to military aggression by mainland China. Blinken once again reiterated that the U.S. will continue to supply defensive capabilities to Taiwan in accordance with longstanding U.S. legislation. It is unclear how these stances piece together with a stated opposition to Taiwanese independence.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says he raised concerns about China’s “provocative actions” in the Taiwan Strait during talks in Beijing
— Bloomberg (@business) June 19, 2023
Another comment that caught attention was Blinken’s statement that China’s “broad economic success is also in our interest.” Blinken hammered home the Biden administration’s line that the U.S. wants competition, not conflict, with China, but critics have accused rhetoric like this of being too soft. Blinken also expressed support for various sanctions on China and attempts to rein in their chipmaking industry, which seemingly conflicts with the statement that China’s economic success is in the American interest.
.@SecBlinken: “One of the important things for me to do on this trip was to disabuse our Chinese hosts of the notion that we’re seeking to economically contain them. We’re not … I also noted to our — our hosts, that China’s broad economic success is also in our interest.” pic.twitter.com/X83VbkYSur
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) June 19, 2023
“And at a time when countries are trying to rebound from COVID, something the United States has done very successfully, we want to see growth, we want to see success, in every part of the world, including, of course, in the major economies like China,” Blinken added.
One key concession Blinken did get from China was an assurance that Beijing is not going to supply Russia with lethal aid to perpetuate its war in Ukraine. The State Department had stated earlier in 2023 it was concerned that China was considering doing so, and promised severe consequences if that happened. (RELATED: New Evidence Of Chinese Military ‘Shadow Labs’ At Wuhan Institute Of Virology)
Blinken immediately undercut that assurance, however, by claiming there are “private” Chinese companies that may be providing Russia with lethal aid. China experts have claimed the idea of “private” companies in China handling military technology is fiction.
Blinken says Chinese officials have promised not to provide lethal assistance to Russia “for use in Ukraine” but then says he is concerned “private” Chinese companies are doing just that. #facepalm
— Josh Rogin (@joshrogin) June 19, 2023
“With regard to lethal aid to Russia for use in Ukraine, we and other countries have received assurances from China that it is not and will not provide lethal assistance to Russia for use in Ukraine. We appreciate that, and we have not seen any evidence that contradicts that,” he said. “What we do have ongoing concerns about, though, are Chinese firms, companies, that may be providing technology that Russia can use to advance its aggression in Ukraine. And we have asked the Chinese government to be very vigilant about that.”
As for Xi, the Chinese dictator took a softer rhetorical tact toward the U.S. than usual during Blinken’s visit. He welcomed the Secretary of State for his attempt to “stabilize” U.S.-China relations, but implored Blinken to do more: “I hope that through this visit, Mr. Secretary, you will make more positive contributions to stabilizing China-U.S. relations.”