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Blinken will test the limits of China’s diplomatic engagement during a trip to Beijing on February 5-6

“Sometimes U.S.-China relations have to deteriorate dangerously before both governments can invest more effort in improving relations,” said Susan Shirk, former deputy undersecretary of state and president of 21st Century China. Center at the University of California, San Diego. of global politics and strategy.

Shirk said Blinken’s trip to Beijing would reflect whether the ruling Chinese Communist Party, “having just made a sudden pragmatic reversal of its Covid policies, … is prepared to moderate other foreign and domestic policies to reduce the costs that they have caused to China”.

Neither the State Department nor the Chinese government has released details of Blinken’s upcoming visit to Beijing. The Chinese Embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment. But State Department spokesman Ned Price said last month that “Russia’s war against Ukraine will be the order of the day.”

Blinken will also likely push for the lifting of suspensions of high-level bilateral contacts — including for counternarcotics cooperation and military dialogues — that Beijing imposed in August in retaliation for the then House speaker. Nancy Pelositrip to Taiwan. Blinken is also under pressure to seek the release of U.S. citizens wrongfully detained in China and to raise administration concerns about what the State Department last week called “China’s continued and accelerated expansion of its nuclear arsenal.

Qin – who assumed the post of foreign minister in January after a rather frosty 17 months as Chinese ambassador to the United States – signaled that he was ready to make Blinken’s visit a success. In a farewell tweet earlier this month, Qin praised the “frank, thorough and constructive meetings” he had with Blinken and said he planned to “continue a close working relationship with him for a better China-US relationship.” . This suggests that Beijing wants to stem the slide in bilateral relations that has prompted the United States to restrict exports of microchips used in advanced computing and military applications and to deepen its military alliance with Japan, China’s arch-rival.

But former foreign minister Wang Yi, whose appointment earlier this month as head of the Office of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission makes him China’s top diplomat, could make for an uphill battle.

“The United States has stubbornly continued to regard China as its main competitor and to engage in blatant blockade, repression and provocation against China,” Wang said in a speech last month.

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