On the second and final day of a rare visit to Beijing, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Wang Yi, China's top diplomat, to discuss ways to avoid escalating tensions between the two rival powers.
Before holding talks that, according to State Department officials, lasted about three hours, the two top diplomats shook hands in a red-carpeted hall at the Diaoyutai State guest house in Beijing.
All eyes will be on whether Blinken meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping later in the day, a meeting that is anticipated but has not yet been officially announced by the State Department or Chinese authorities.
In order to learn more about the business environment in China, he was also planning to meet with American businesspeople in Beijing who work in the healthcare, automotive, and entertainment sectors.
Blinken, who was in China for the first time in five years as a secretary of state, spoke with Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang on Sunday for more than 7 and a half hours in "candid" and "constructive" discussions.
However, it didn't seem like they made much headway on the numerous issues at hand, such as Taiwan, trade, human rights, stopping the flow of the synthetic opioid fentanyl and its precursor chemicals from China, or their divergent perspectives on the conflict in Ukraine.
In his conversations with Qin, Blinken emphasized "the need to reduce the risk of misperception and miscalculation".
The importance of making it simpler for their citizens to travel was emphasized by both parties, and they agreed to work to increase passenger flights, which increased shares of Chinese airlines.
In addition, they agreed that Qin would visit Washington to continue the discussion despite what one U.S. official described as their "profound" differences. However, no specific date was given.
There are still hopes that both parties can uphold their "bottom line" in the relationship, according to an editorial published in the state-run Chinese tabloid Global Times on Monday, "despite very low expectations for any breakthroughs made during Blinken's visit to China."
There were no illusions that the problems would be resolved with a few meetings, according to U.S. officials who briefed reporters late on Sunday, but beginning the conversations was a success.
Under the condition of anonymity, a senior State Department official said, "This will be a process of sustained diplomacy."
Blinken's trip is closely watched around the world because further deterioration of relations between the world's two largest economies could have global repercussions on financial markets, trade practices and routes, and supply chains. Blinken's trip was postponed in February after a suspected Chinese spy balloon flew over U.S. airspace.
Taiwan Premier Chen Chien-Jen told reporters in central Taiwan, "Taiwan closely grasps the relevant details for this high-level interaction between China and the United States."
Taiwan "Core Interest"
Relationships between China and the United States have generally deteriorated recently, raising fears that they may one day engage in a military conflict over Taiwan, which China claims as its own.
The meetings on Sunday were described as positive in the Chinese readout, but it was made clear that Taiwan was the most crucial and potentially dangerous issue.
According to Chinese state media, Qin told the top U.S. diplomat that the Taiwan issue is the core of China's core interests, the most significant problem in Sino-US relations, and the biggest risk.
For China's neighbors, Beijing's reluctance to hold frequent military-to-military talks with Washington has been particularly concerning.
Although U.S. officials have been downplaying the possibility of a significant breakthrough in negotiations, they and analysts anticipate that Blinken's visit will pave the way for additional bilateral meetings in the upcoming months, including potential visits by the secretaries of the Treasury and Commerce.
Additionally, it might pave the way for discussions between Biden and Xi at later-year multilateral summits.