Blinken Heads to China Amid Low Expectations

  • VOA News

    February 03, 2023 08:22

    U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is heading to Beijing for talks with senior Chinese officials on issues including Russia's war in Ukraine, trade, and cooperation in counternarcotics. But President Joe Biden's administration is facing tough questions from congressional critics, as expectations are low that such dialogue will bring substantial results.
    Blinken will be the first chief U.S. diplomat to visit China since 2018.
    The quick trip to Beijing is unlikely to fix disagreements between the two countries over what U.S. officials say are China's unfair trade practices and industrial espionage, as well as Beijing's threats against Taiwan. It is also unlikely to change China's support for Russia, as Moscow continues its aggression in Ukraine, or bring home Americans wrongfully detained by Chinese authorities.
    "You only sit down for talks unless you think you're going to make progress," Republican U.S. Representative Michael McCaul told VOA Mandarin on Wednesday. McCaul, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said he was "very skeptical" and doubted such diplomatic talks could change Chinese President Xi Jinping's policies.
    In the Senate, 14 Republican lawmakers voiced concerns in a letter that Blinken's meetings with senior Chinese officials from February 5-6 "will simply become a propaganda win" for the Chinese Communist Party and "bring no material benefit" to the United States and its allies. Republican senators' letter was sent to Blinken and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, who will also be traveling to Beijing.
    Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks at the State Department in Washington on Jan. 4, 2023. /AP
    ◆ Taiwan
    McCaul told VOA Mandarin that he plans to visit Taiwan in April. "I will be traveling with [Republican House] Speaker [Kevin] McCarthy when he decides to go. It hasn't been finalized. So I don't know when that would happen," he said.
    The Republican representative added "any elected member of Congress has every right to go visit the elected officials in any country." He noted China's military escalation against Taiwan following then-Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit last August was "very inappropriate, aggressive, hostile, and provocative."
    Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, urged Blinken to raise concerns about China's "increasing disruption of the status quo" in the Taiwan Strait. "Taiwan is one of the most dangerous potential flashpoints in Asia and for U.S. security," wrote Menendez in a letter to Blinken, asking the top U.S. diplomat to "unequivocally" convey to his Chinese counterpart the U.S. commitment to Taiwan.
    Under the Taiwan Relations Act, the United States determines the quality and quantity of its security assistance to Taiwan. That decision is made based on Taiwan's defense needs, such as the level of military threats from Beijing.
    China has ramped up military escalation against Taiwan in recent months following successive visits by U.S. lawmakers to the island. China claims sovereignty over the self-ruled democracy. The U.S. does not take a position on Taiwan's sovereignty. Beijing has said Taiwan-related issues are at the heart of its core interests, warning Washington not to cross "the number one red line." 
    U.S. officials have said Washington's "One China" policy is "distinct" from Beijing's "One China" principle. Washington does not subscribe to Beijing's "One China" principle. For decades, the U.S. has been clear that its decision to establish diplomatic relations with China in 1979 rested on the expectation that "the future of Taiwan will be determined by peaceful means," consistent with the wishes and best interest of people of Taiwan. 
    "We have been providing security assistance to Taiwan under the Taiwan Relations Act and the 'One China' policy," Jessica Lewis, assistant secretary of state for political and military affairs, said Wednesday. Since 2017, the U.S. executive branch has notified Congress of over $18 billion in Foreign Military Sales to Taiwan, and more than $37 billion since 2010.
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