Choose between stability and ‘downward spiral,’ China tells Blinken during Beijing trip

Chinese leader Xi Jinping said the US and China should be “partners rather than adversaries” as he met with top American diplomat Antony Blinken in Beijing’s cavernous Great Hall of the People on Friday.

The meeting, which took place on the final day of Blinken’s three–day visit to China, comes as the two countries seek to continue to stabilize rocky relations and expand communication – including on a host of contentions from technology to Taiwan.

“China would like to see a confident, open and prosperous United States. We hope that the United States will view China’s development in a positive light,” Xi told Blinken.

“Once this fundamental problem is solved … Sino-US relations will truly get better and move forward,” he said. “China and the US should be partners rather than adversaries; help each other succeed rather than harm each other.”

Xi’s comments come as Chinese officials bristle at actions Washington has taken in the name of national security in the face of an increasingly assertive China, but which Beijing sees as meant to suppress its development. Those have included US controls on the export to China of high-tech goods that could have military uses, as well as curbs on US investment in certain high-tech sectors in China.

On Wednesday, US President Joe Biden signed a bill that could lead to a nationwide ban on the social media platform TikTok if the company’s Chinese parent ByteDance doesn’t sell it – legislation Beijing has previously decried.

Blinken told Xi the US was “committed to maintain and strengthen lines of communications” with China and “deal responsibly with our differences, so we would not have any miscommunications, misperceptions and any miscalculations.”

Examples of recent progress Blinken cited included “restoring military-to-military communications, counternarcotics and thinking together about the futures of artificial intelligence.”

Their meeting followed five hours of face time between Blinken and counterpart Wang Yi, which both sides characterized as “substantive and constructive.”

But Wang was also clear about sharp tensions that still exist between the world’s two superpowers. As their meetings got underway, Wang said China and the US face a choice between stability and a “downward spiral.”

“Should China and the United States keep to the right direction of moving forward with stability or return to a downward spiral? This is a major question before our two countries, and tests our sincerity and ability,” Wang told Blinken during a meeting at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse, after saying US-China ties were “beginning to stabilize.”

“Should our two sides lead international cooperation against global issues and achieve win-win for all? Or engage in rivalry and confrontation – or even slide into conflict, which would be a lose-lose for all?” he said, speaking through an interpreter.

During a closed-door meeting later, Wang accused the US of “taking endless measures to suppress China’s economy, trade, science and technology” and over-hyping recent concerns about China’s industrial “overcapacity” flooding global markets.

“(US measures are) not fair competition, but containment, and it is not removing risks, but creating risks,” he said, according to a readout from Chinese state media.

In his comments to Wang ahead of the closed door session, Blinken pointed to a “shared responsibility” between the two countries to “make sure that we’re as clear as possible about the areas where we have differences.”

“I hope we can make some progress on the issues that our presidents agreed we should cooperate on, but also clarify our differences, our intents, and make very clear to each other where we stand,” Blinken said.

The trip is the latest in a string of high-level engagements that included a summit meeting between President Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping in California in November, following a period of immense tension.

Both sides also discussed next steps on a commitments made by the two leaders on advancing cooperation on counternarcotics, military-to-military communication, talks on artificial intelligence risks and safety, and facilitating people-to-people exchanges, the US State Department said following the meeting.

Speaking to reporters after his meetings, Blinken said the two countries would hold their first talks on artificial intelligence and its risks “in the coming weeks.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken shakes hands with China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Beijing on April 26, 2024. - Mark Schiefelbein/Pool/AFP/Getty Images
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken shakes hands with China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Beijing on April 26, 2024. - Mark Schiefelbein/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

‘Peace and stability’

Blinken’s trip to China – his second in the space of a year – also comes as the two countries navigate a host of thorny geopolitical and regional issues from China’s support for Russia to its aggression in the South China Sea and toward Taiwan.

In an interview with CNN’s Kylie Atwood, before he departed from Beijing, Blinken said the US has seen evidence of Chinese attempts to “influence and arguably interfere” with the upcoming US elections, despite an earlier commitment from Xi Jinping not to do so.

Among the key concerns for the US is what Washington has described as China’s support for Russia’s defense industrial base, which it says has enabled Moscow to continue its war against Ukraine.

During his news conference, Blinken said he reiterated the US’ “serious concerns” about China’s provision of dual use parts “that are powering Russia’s illegal war of aggression against Ukraine.”

“Russia would struggle to sustain its assault on Ukraine without China’s support,” he said.

Blinken told CNN that the US is willing to take further action. “What we said to China is this – we’re going to take actions we already have, and if it doesn’t stop, we’re going to have to take more action, and you can anticipate as well, that other countries will (too).”

Beijing has previously slammed the US for making “groundless accusations” over “normal trade and economic exchanges” between China and Russia.

Blinken also said he stressed the critical importance of maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and encouraged China to use its influence to discourage Iran and its proxies from expanding the conflict in the Middle East, as well as to press North Korea to end its “dangerous behavior and engage in dialogue.”

China’s readout notes that the two sides exchanged views on the “Ukrainian issue, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, North Korea, Myanmar and other issues.”

Wang called on the US to “stop coercing regional countries to choose sides,” and said the Asia-Pacific region “should not become a battleground for major powers,” in a likely allusion to its concerns about the US growing defense relationships with long-standing Asian allies.

On Taiwan, Wang repeated Beijing’s typical warning that the “Taiwan issue is the first insurmountable red line” in US-China relations.

China’s ruling Communist Party claims Taiwan as part of its territory, despite having never controlled it, and has ramped up its military intimidation of the democratic island in recent years.

It decries the unofficial relationship between the US and Taiwan, as well as arms sales to Taiwan, which the US is obligated to make under the Taiwan Relations Act.

This story and headline have been updated to reflect additional developments.

CNN’s Wayne Chang contributed to this report.

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