Secretary of State Antony Blinken plans to visit China this week, marking the first visit of a Cabinet-level U.S. official to the country in four years.
Blinken will depart on Friday and return on Wednesday, the Department announced. He had previously planned to visit Beijing in February, though that trip was postponed amid the aerial incursion of a suspected Chinese spy balloon into U.S. airspace.
On this trip, Blinken plans to meet with senior Chinese officials to “discuss the importance of maintaining open lines of communication to responsibly manage the U.S.-PRC [People’s Republic of China] relationship.” He will also discuss myriad geopolitical matters affecting the two nations.
The Department did attempt to set low expectations for the trip, given the heightened diplomatic tensions between Washington and Beijing over Taiwan, Russia, and trade-related matters.
“We’re coming to Beijing with a realistic, confident approach and a sincere desire to manage our competition the most responsible way possible. We do hope at a minimum that we will achieve that goal, and we also do hope of course to make progress on a number of concrete issues,” said Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Kritenbrink. “It would be wise not to have expectations of a long list of deliverables because that’s not where we are, I think, in the bilateral relationship.”
Among the most thorny of issues plaguing relations between the global superpowers is the matter of Beijing’s claims to legitimately govern the island of Taiwan. The Republic of China has maintained the island as its sole surviving outpost since losing the Chinese Civil War in 1949. In principle, both governments recognize the existence of a single Chinese state encompassing both of their territories, though each officially claims to bear the mantle of that state’s rightful authority.
Fears of a Chinese invasion have persisted for years, though such a prospect has been granted renewed credulity in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The U.S. government has since reportedly begun organizing plans for a rapid evacuation of U.S. citizens from the island.