A Disgruntled Tony Blinken Leaves Beijing, Muttering Threats

The visit of U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Beijing April 23-26 was part of the high-level exchanges that had been decided on by Presidents Xi and Biden last November at their summit in San Francisco. The primary purpose was to keep the all-important U.S.-China relationship on an even keel.

The task assigned to Blinken by his boss Joe Biden was the same as the one assigned to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen for her long visit to China last month, and she admitted she had not succeeded. Neither did Blinken. Although he made the usual “promises” of no support for Taiwan independence, no “de-coupling”, and no Cold War, he began touting the new complaint of China’s “over-capacity”, while warning Beijing to reduce its high-tech trade with Russia.

The Chinese hosts were ready for this onslaught and responded diplomatically but firmly. Foreign Minister Wang Yi charged Washington with taking “endless measures to suppress China’s economy, trade, science and technology”. Such measures, he underlined,  “are not fair competition, but containment, and it is not removing risks, but creating risks.”

Blinken also met with President Xi on April 26 in a formal setting at a conference table with President Xi sitting at the head. “China and the US should be partners rather than rivals,” Xi said, “help each other succeed rather than hurt each other; seek common ground and reserve differences rather than engage in vicious competition; and honor words with actions rather than say one thing but do another”. As for Washington’s complaints about China-Russia trade, Xi referenced it indirectly, according to Global Times, by stating that China is committed to non-alliance, and the US should not create small blocs, adding that each side can have its friends and partners, it should not target, oppose or harm the other.

While the two sides agreed to continue the high-level visits and would work together on AI and increasing people-to-people exchanges, it is unlikely that Blinken has really understood the position elaborated by his Chinese counterparts. In his press conference and in remarks to reporters, he indicated that the U.S. would be moving forward with further restrictions on Chinese banks if China does not reduce its trade with Russia, which is almost unthinkable under present conditions.

However, should Washington actually impose more sanctions on Chinese banks, it could portend a major collapse not of the Chinese economy, but of the New York-London banking system. It would also undoubtedly escalate the pace of the process of establishing new financial arrangements independent of the dollar-based system, which China, Russia, and most of the Global South have been in the process of creating, given the resolutely hostile nature of “the West” toward their development.

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