Meeting with Blinken, Xi said he was satisfied with the outcome of Blinken’s previous meetings with two top Chinese diplomats and said the two countries had agreed to resume a program of arrangements that he and President Joe Biden agreed in a meeting in Bali last year.
« The Chinese side clarified our position and the two sides agreed to follow the common understandings that President Biden and I had reached in Bali, » Xi said.
That agenda has been jeopardized in recent months, particularly after the United States shot down a Chinese surveillance balloon in its airspace in February and amid heightened military activity in the Taiwan Strait and South China Sea. Combined with human rights controversies, opioid trade and manufacturing, the list of problem areas is daunting.
But Xi hinted that the worst may be over.
« The two sides have also made progress and reached an agreement on some specific issues, » Xi said without elaborating, according to a transcript of the remarks released by the State Department. « This is very good. »
« I hope that through this visit, Mr. Secretary, you will make more positive contributions to the stabilization of Sino-US relations, » Xi added.
In his remarks to Xi during the 35-minute session at the Great Hall of the People announced just an hour before the start, Blinken said that « the United States and China have an obligation and a responsibility to manage our relations ».
« The United States is committed to doing this, » Blinken said. « It’s in the US interest, it’s in China’s interest, and it’s in the world’s interest. »
Blinken described his previous discussions with senior Chinese officials as « frank and constructive ».
Despite his presence in China, Blinken and other US officials had downplayed the prospects for significant progress on the most vexing issues facing the planet’s two largest economies.
Instead, these officials stressed the importance of the two countries establishing and maintaining better lines of communication.
Blinken is the highest-level US official to visit China since President Joe Biden took office and the first secretary of state to make the trip in five years. His visit is expected to usher in a new round of visits by senior US and Chinese officials, which could include a meeting between Xi and Biden in the coming months.
Blinken met with top Chinese diplomat Wang Yi on Monday for about three hours, according to a US official.
China’s foreign affairs ministry wrote in a statement that Blinken’s visit « coincides with a critical moment in China-US relations, and a choice must be made between dialogue or confrontation, cooperation or conflict, » and blamed the « perception misconception of the US side of China, leading to incorrect policies towards China” for the current “low point” in relations.
He said that the United States has a responsibility to halt « the spiraling decline in China-US relations and put it back on a healthy and stable track » and that Wang « demanded that the United States stop extolling the ‘China threat theory,’ lift the illegal unilateral sanctions against China, abandon the suppression of China’s technological development, and refrain from arbitrary interference in China’s internal affairs. »
The State Department said Blinken « underlined the importance of responsibly managing US-PRC competition through open channels of communication to ensure that competition does not escalate into conflict. »
In the first round of interviews On Sunday, Blinken met with Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang for nearly six hours, after which both countries said they agreed to continue the high-level talks. However, there was no sign that any of the more contentious issues between them were any closer to resolution.
Both the US and China said Qin had accepted Blinken’s invitation to visit Washington, but Beijing clarified that « the US-China relationship is at its lowest point since its establishment ». This sentiment is widely shared by US officials.
Blinken’s visit comes after his initial plans to travel to China were postponed in February after a Chinese surveillance balloon was shot down over the United States
A snub from the Chinese leader would have been a major setback to the effort to restore and maintain communications at the highest levels.
And Biden said over the weekend that he hopes to meet with Xi in the coming months to address the plethora of differences that divide them.
In his Sunday meetings, Blinken also urged the Chinese to release detained American citizens and take steps to curb the production and export of the fentanyl precursors that are fueling the US opioid crisis.
Xi had offered a hint of a possible desire to reduce tensions on Friday, saying in a meeting with Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates that the US and China can cooperate to « boast our two countries. »
Since canceling Blinken’s trip in February, there have been some high-level engagements. CIA Chief William Burns traveled to China in May, as China’s Commerce Minister traveled to the United States and Biden’s National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan met with China’s senior foreign policy adviser Wang Yi in Vienna in May.
But those have been punctuated by outbursts of angry rhetoric from both countries over the Taiwan Strait, their wider intentions in the Indo-Pacific, China’s refusal to condemn Russia for his war against Ukraineand US allegations from Washington that Beijing is attempting to enforce its world surveillance capabilitiesalso in Cuba.
And, earlier this month, China’s defense minister pushed back a request from US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin for a meeting on the sidelines of a security symposium in Singapore, a sign of continued discontent.