The two sides ‘made progress’, Chinese President Xi Jinping says after talks with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
President Xi Jinping says China and the United States “made progress” on a number of issues during a visit by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
A roughly 30-minute meeting with Xi on Monday was Blinken’s final engagement on the closely watched trip, which included talks with China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, and Foreign Minister Qin Gang.
There are hopes that the two days of talks could lead to a meeting between US President Joe Biden and Xi this year. They last met on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, in November, pledging more frequent communication although ties since then have deteriorated over issues ranging from Taiwan to espionage concerns.
“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 that the “two sides have also made progress and reached agreement on some specific issues”.
During the otherwise closed-door talks, Xi said China “hopes to see a sound and steady China-US relationship” and believes the two countries “can overcome various difficulties”, according to a readout by China’s state news agency Xinhua.
He also urged the US not to “hurt China’s legitimate rights and interests”.
Blinken said the two countries “have an obligation and responsibility” to manage their relationship and the United States was “committed to doing that”.
He later said he agreed with China’s leadership on the need to “stabilise” relations but that he was “clear-eyed” on vast disagreements.
“In every meeting, I stressed that direct engagement and sustained communication at senior levels is the best way to responsibly manage differences and ensure that competition does not veer into conflict,” Blinken told reporters in Beijing.
“I heard the same from my Chinese counterparts. We both agree on the need to stabilise our relationship.”
But Blinken said the United States was “clear-eyed about the challenges” posed by China.
“We have no illusions about the challenges of managing this relationship. There are many issues on which we profoundly – even vehemently – disagree,” Blinken said.
Al Jazeera’s Katrina Yu, reporting from Beijing, described Blinken’s visit as “a positive sign, a sign of good faith, a sign of respect” between the two nations as they look to repair their strained relationship.
She said that although “a long list” of disagreements remains, the meeting represents some “minor wins” with more high-level meetings expected between Washington and Beijing.
Despite the positive signals emerging from Blinken’s visit, Beijing has been candid in its position that major disagreements remain.
China’s director of the Office of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission, Wang Yi, met with Blinken earlier on Monday.
During the meeting, Wang blamed the US for the deterioration in their relationship as he emphasised that Taiwan, a self-ruled democratic island that Beijing claims as its own, was its “core interest” and there was “no room” for compromise.
China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs wrote afterwards in a statement that Blinken’s visit “coincides with a critical juncture in China-US relations, and it is necessary to make a choice between dialogue or confrontation, cooperation or conflict”. It blamed the “US side’s erroneous perception of China, leading to incorrect policies towards China” for the current “low point” in relations.
US Department of State spokesman Matthew Miller called the discussion with Wang “candid and productive”.
On Sunday, Qin’s meeting with Blinken lasted more than seven and a half hours. Afterwards, Beijing released a readout of the meeting, which showed a number of positive outcomes, including an agreement to increase commercial flights between the countries.
Liu Fu-kuo, a research fellow at the Institute of International Relations at Taiwan’s National Chengchi University, told Al Jazeera that the Blinken-Xi talks appeared to sound “a positive note for the region”.
“It would be too early to say if tension of the bilateral relationship is melted. At least, China has responded with a positive feedback. The talks may be resumed, and the summit later this year can be hopeful. This visit signals such an encouraging move by the two.”