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editorial
Editorials
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Blinken in China

The meeting between the U.S. Secretary of State and President Xi Jinping redirects tense relations towards an incipient dialogue

Antony Blinken
Antony Blinken greets Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing.LEAH MILLIS (AP)

The lines of communication between Beijing and Washington have been rebuilt, as reflected by the trip this weekend by Secretary of State Antony Blinken to the Chinese capital, capped by his meeting with President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People. Relations between the two biggest superpowers had deteriorated in recent months, especially since the downing of the Chinese spy balloon that crossed U.S. airspace last February and the subsequent suspension of Blinken’s scheduled official trip to China around those dates.

This is the first trip by a U.S. secretary of state to the Chinese capital since the 2018 visit by Mike Pompeo, the incumbent under the presidency of Donald Trump. Halfway through Biden’s presidency, the cancellation of Blinken’s trip introduced an anomaly that reflected the lowest point in bilateral relations since these were established in 1979. The trade and tariff war started by Trump and largely continued by Biden, China’s benevolent attitude towards Putin’s war of Russian aggression against Ukraine and, above all, the dispute over Taiwan have been the catalysts for increasingly frosty relations that were heading, at least until now, in the direction of a new confrontation, and even posed the risk of an eventual armed incident in the airspace or international waters off the South China Sea, as nearly occurred between planes and ships of both armies just 20 days ago.

A tense cordiality has surrounded Blinken’s meetings with Foreign Minister Qing Yan and with the head of Foreign Affairs of the Communist Party and true top representative of Chinese diplomacy, Wang Yi, more focused on reviewing the repertoire of disputes and on the agenda of shared interests than in the usual escalation of grievances of recent months. It is a minor step, but it favors a détente against a backdrop of war in Ukraine. The final meeting with Xi Jinping, which was not on the official agenda, sends a message of Chinese approval of Blinken’s talks, also expressed in the subsequent statements by spokespersons and in the perspective of a meeting between Biden and Xi Jinping in November in San Francisco on the occasion of the annual meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation group of nations. Perhaps it is only the beginning of an incipient and fledgling dialogue, but in any case, communication channels have been re-established and a common language has been accepted that allows both governments to express their strong discrepancies, allowing a dialogue that had never interrupted in the past but which many had almost given up on in recent times.

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