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Blinken initiates crucial negotiations with Beijing to reduce US-China tensions

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met his Chinese counterpart Chen Gang at the start of a two-day mission visit to Beijing on Sunday.

Chinese state television showed two senior diplomats and their delegations greeting each other and sitting across from each other at two long tables at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing.

Nothing was revealed at first about the content of the conversations. The couple was scheduled to have dinner later in the day.

A series of meetings with high-level government representatives are scheduled before Blinken — the most senior US official to visit China in years — departs on Monday.

It is still not clear if he will meet Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

Blinken is making his first visit to China since taking office in 2021, a period when tensions between the United States and China have intensified.

He is making up for a long-planned trip that he canceled on short notice in February when a diplomatic crisis erupted with the discovery of what Washington said was a Chinese surveillance balloon over US soil.

On Friday, Blinken said he would be speaking “straightforward and frankly about very real concerns about a range of issues.”

The goal, he said, is to establish “open and empowered contacts,” so that “the two superpowers responsibly manage their relationship.”

“Tough competition requires sustained diplomacy to ensure that competition does not turn into confrontation or conflict,” he told reporters.

The United States and China enjoy one of the most important bilateral relations in the world.

Those relations have been severely strained by a host of issues, including China’s neutrality over Russia’s war in Ukraine, Beijing’s threats against Taiwan, and ongoing trade disputes in areas such as advanced computer chips.

US President Joe Biden’s administration has chosen China as the “most important geopolitical challenge” facing the United States

Before Blinken’s visit, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin indicated Beijing’s willingness to talk, but with conditions.

“One cannot say one thing and do another,” Wang said on Friday. He said Washington should also “give up the illusion of dealing with China ‘from a position of strength'”.

“China and the United States should develop relations on the basis of mutual respect and equality, respecting differences in history, culture, social system and development path, and understanding each other’s core interests and major concerns,” Wang said.

Shortly before Blinken’s arrival in Beijing, Biden said Saturday that he hopes to meet with President Xi “over the next several months,” adding that he would like to discuss “legitimate differences” between China and the United States as well as areas where the two superpowers can. “coexistence.”

Biden also downplayed the Chinese airship incident, saying he did not believe senior Chinese leaders knew where the plane was or how it was equipped.

“I think it was more embarrassing than it was intentional,” Biden said.

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