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China's Wang tells Blinken 'in-depth' dialogue can steady ties

Standing next to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Wang said the two countries share important common interests and challenges that they need to resolve together.
Last Updated : 27 October 2023, 05:41 IST

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Washington/Beijing: The United States and China have disagreements and need "in-depth" and "comprehensive" dialogue to reduce misunderstandings and stabilise ties, China's foreign minister, Wang Yi, said on Thursday, kicking off a long-anticipated visit to Washington.

Standing next to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Wang said the two countries share important common interests and challenges that they need to resolve together.

"Therefore, China and the United States need to have dialogue. Not only should we resume dialogue, the dialogue should be in-depth and comprehensive," Wang said, speaking through an interpreter.

Dialogue would help reduce misunderstandings, help stabilize the relationship and "return it to the track of healthy, stable and sustainable development," he said.

Blinken responded: "I agree with what the foreign minister said."

Before Wang spoke, Blinken had said he looked forward to constructive talks with his Chinese counterpart. During the meeting, Blinken expressed his condolences on the passing of China's former premier, Li Keqiang.

Wang's three-day visit is the latest in a flurry of diplomatic engagements between the two strategic rivals as they seek to manage their differences to avoid conflict. The trip primarily is to prepare for an expected summit between President Joe Biden and President Xi Jinping in November.

Blinken and Wang will continue their discussions on Friday.

The Israel-Hamas conflict has added a fresh dynamic to the testy relationship of the superpowers, and Washington is hoping Beijing can use its influence with Iran to prevent an escalation into a wider war in the Middle East.

Wang is expected to meet US national security adviser Jake Sullivan on Friday. He is also expected to speak with Biden during his visit to the White House, although it is unclear how substantial their interaction will be.

The Biden administration's priority with Beijing has been to prevent intense competition between the two largest economies and disagreements on a host of issues - including trade, Taiwan and the South China Sea - from veering into conflict.

However, while both Beijing and Washington have spoken of looking for areas where they can work together, and Xi said on Wednesday China was willing to cooperate on global challenges, experts do not expect immediate progress.

PATH TO BIDEN-XI MEETING

Policy analysts in China and the US say both sides share an interest in averting a wider war in the Middle East and that China, as a major oil purchaser, could exert considerable influence on Iran. Whether it will remains to be seen.

"The Chinese certainly have an interest in preventing a direct US-Iranian confrontation, as they are major oil consumers and that would spike prices," said Jon Alterman, head of the Middle East program at Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies.

"Still, the Chinese are unlikely to do any heavy lifting here. I expect they'll want a seat at the table when the Israel-Gaza struggle gets resolved, but they don't feel much need or ability to hasten resolution."

Shi Yinhong, professor of international relations at Renmin University of China, said Beijing exerting its influence over Iran was "almost the only serious and practical U.S. expectation of China on the Middle East situation."

However Shi added: "The US position on Iran is far from acceptable to China and vice versa. Mutual compromise on this issue could be too limited and small to be of any significance."

Wang's visit to Washington comes after several top US officials, including Blinken, visited Beijing in the past several months.

Analysts expect Wang's talks to focus on preparations for an anticipated meeting between Biden and Xi on the sidelines of the summit of Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) countries in San Francisco from Nov 11 to 17. It would be Biden and Xi's first in-person meeting since a summit in Bali last November.

The two sides go into APEC from different economic perspectives, with economic policy analysts saying the US has weathered challenging global conditions after the Covid-19 pandemic somewhat better than China.

US and Chinese officials held a virtual meeting on Monday on macroeconomic developments.

US officials said Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, where they accused Beijing of "destabilizing and dangerous actions" against rival territorial claimants, would also be on the agenda. Re-establishing military-to-military ties with China remains a top priority to avoid unintended conflict, they said.

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Published 27 October 2023, 05:41 IST

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