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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. Alamy Stock Photo
us china relations

Antony Blinken says China renewed promises not to send arms to Russia during talks with the US

Chinese President Xi Jinping said the United States and China had “made progress” on a number of issues.

LAST UPDATE | 19 Jun 2023

THE UNITED STATES’ Secretary of State Antony Blinken said China has renewed promises not to send arms to Russia to fight in Ukraine, although he voiced concern at the actions of private Chinese firms during talks today in Beijing.

“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,” Blinken told reporters after two days of talks.

“We have not seen any evidence that contradicts that. 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,” he said.

“We have asked the Chinese government to be very vigilant about that.”

Blinken said that China had offered assurances on Russia in “recent weeks” and not exclusively during his visit.

Chinese President Xi Jinping said earlier that the United States and China had “made progress” on a number of issues as he hosted talks with Blinken, capping two days of high-level talks by the US secretary of state with Chinese officials.

“The Chinese side has made our position clear and the two sides have agreed to follow through the common understandings President Biden and I had reached in Bali,” Xi told the US secretary of state, adding the “two sides have also made progress and reached agreement on some specific issues”.

Blinken’s was the highest-level visit by a US official to China in nearly five years marked by severely strained ties between the world’s two largest economies.

u-s-secretary-of-state-antony-blinken-meets-with-chinese-president-xi-jinping-in-the-great-hall-of-the-people-in-beijing-china-monday-june-19-2023-leah-millispool-photo-via-ap US Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

The United States has gone public with allegations that China is considering arms support to Russia, a leading military power which has had to rely on Iran and North Korea since facing tough resistance in Ukraine after its February 2022 invasion.

China has recently stepped up its diplomacy on Ukraine, a move seen sceptically by the United States which believes Russia is looking for diplomatic avenues to legitimise its territorial gains.

US officials have said they hope the visit will bring more stability, if not breakthroughs, between Washington and Beijing.

Xi, China’s most powerful leader in decades, met Blinken around 4.30pm (9.30am Irish time) today, Chinese state media said.

The meeting came after Blinken held more than ten hours of talks over two days with other top officials.

At the ornate Diaoyutai State Guesthouse today, Blinken and China’s foreign policy supremo Wang Yi offered polite smiles before talks with their aides, who unlike their bosses wore masks in line with lingering Covid-19 protocols.

Away from the cameras, Wang told Blinken that his trip “comes at a critical juncture in China-US relations”, according to state broadcaster CCTV.

“It is necessary to make a choice between dialogue and confrontation, cooperation or conflict,” he said.

“We must reverse the downward spiral of China-US relations, push for a return to a healthy and stable track, and work together to find a correct way for China and the United States to get along,” Wang added.

He also issued a warning on Taiwan, the self-ruling democracy claimed by Beijing.

In the past year, China has launched live-fire military drills twice near the island in anger over meetings between top US lawmakers and Taiwanese leaders.

“On this issue, China has no room to compromise or concede,” Wang told Blinken, according to CCTV.

State Department spokesman Matthew Miller called the discussion with Wang “candid and productive”.

Blinken “underscored the importance of responsibly managing the competition between the United States and the PRC through open channels of communication to ensure competition does not veer into conflict”, Miller said, referring to the People’s Republic of China.

‘Quarrelling lovers’

US officials have voiced fears that China in the coming years will try to seize Taiwan and insist that Washington’s sales of weapons to the island are meant only to preserve the status quo.

Blinken will address reporters before leaving China later today.

u-s-secretary-of-state-antony-blinken-fourth-left-meets-with-chinese-president-xi-jinping-center-and-wang-yi-chinese-communist-partys-foreign-policy-chief-third-right-in-the-great-hall-of-the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, fourth left, meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping, center, and Wang Yi, Chinese Communist Party's foreign policy chief, third right, in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Tensions between China and the United States have soared in recent years over a host of issues including trade, technology and Taiwan, with both US President Joe Biden and his predecessor Donald Trump calling Beijing the most serious threat to long-term US global primacy.

On the streets of Beijing, Sun Yi, 26, said she hoped that Blinken’s visit would improve the relationship and that she hoped to visit the United States.

“I think the two countries right now are like quarrelling lovers. Both sides have their own personalities and interests and are not willing to compromise,” she said.

Hopes for new summit

Xi met Biden in November in Bali on the sidelines of a Group of 20 summit, raising cautious hopes for a thaw.

Blinken abruptly shelved his trip, which was agreed in Bali, in February after the United States said it detected — and later shot down — a Chinese spy balloon hovering over the US mainland.

Biden on Saturday said he did not believe the Chinese leadership was aware of the balloon — suggesting a disconnect with the military, which has been less eager to restore contacts with the United States.

Biden has kept Trump’s hard line on China and in some areas gone further, including banning exports of high-end semiconductors to the rising power.

But Biden has also voiced hope for limited cooperation in areas such as climate and has voiced hope for a new in-person meeting with Xi.

The next opportunity is expected in September when Biden and Xi are both expected in New Delhi for the latest G20 summit.

Xi has also been invited to San Francisco in November as the United States leads the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.

Entrenched positions

On the first day of talks, Blinken pressed the Chinese to release detained American citizens and take steps to curb the production and export of fentanyl precursors that were fuelling the opioid crisis in the US.

US officials said Blinken posed each of these points, though neither side had shown any inclination to back down on their entrenched positions.

Shortly before leaving Washington, Blinken emphasised the importance of the US and China establishing and maintaining better lines of communication.

The US wanted to make sure “that the competition we have with China doesn’t veer into conflict” due to avoidable misunderstandings, he told reporters.

Biden and Xi had made commitments to improve communications “precisely so that we can make sure we are communicating as clearly as possible to avoid possible misunderstandings and miscommunications”, Blinken said on Friday.

Xi offered a hint of a possible willingness to reduce tensions, saying in a meeting with Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates on Friday that the United States and China could co-operate to “benefit our two countries”.

“I believe that the foundation of Sino/US relations lies in the people,” Xi said to Gates.

“Under the current world situation, we can carry out various activities that benefit our two countries, the people of our countries, and the entire human race.”

 © AFP 2023 

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