By Nike Ching
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang held “candid” and “direct” talks in Beijing Sunday, the State Department said, as the United States and China seek to stabilize the bilateral relationship amid rising tensions.
During the seven-and-a-half hour meeting at Diaoyutai State Guesthouse, Qin accepted an invitation to come to the U.S. Agreement was also reached on more flights between the two countries.
In addition, both sides will continue to work on several issues “at a working level,” said a senior State Department official.
After Blinken’s in-person meetings with Qin, they had a working dinner later Sunday at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse.
“The Secretary made clear that the United States will always stand up for the interests and values of the American people and work with its allies and partners to advance our vision for a world that is free, open, and upholds the international rules-based order,” said State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller in a statement.
Blinken is the first secretary of state to visit Beijing since 2018. His two-day trip was rescheduled from February after a Chinese surveillance balloon flew through U.S. airspace.
“Hope this meeting can help steer China-U.S. relations back to what the two presidents (U.S. President Joe Biden and China’s Xi Jinping) agreed upon in Bali,” said Chinese Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs Hua Chunying in a Tweet. During that meeting the two leaders agreed to maintain open lines of communication.
“I think I can say with great confidence there is a recognition on both sides that we do need to have senior-level channels of communication, that we are at an important point in the relationship where I think reducing the risk of miscalculation” is important, a senior State Department official told reporters.
Topics high on the agenda during Blinken’s meetings in Beijing Sunday and Monday include regional security, counternarcotics, climate change, global macroeconomic stability, Americans wrongfully detained in China, as well as exchanges between American and Chinese people, according to senior U.S. officials.
Americans wrongfully detained in China
June 18 is Father’s Day. Children of Americans who the U.S. considers wrongfully detained by Chinese authorities asked Blinken to raise their fathers’ cases with his Chinese counterparts.
“Behind every hostage is a family suffering every day,” said “Bring Our Families Home Campaign” in a tweet Sunday.
“This Sunday will be the 7th time I’ve missed Father’s Day with my dad,” said Harrison Li. “Releasing my dad is one of the easiest things that the Chinese government can do to show they are serious about normalizing relations.”
Harrison Li’s dad, Kai Li, is an American citizen detained in China since September 2016. He was later sentenced to 10 years in prison for espionage, a charge that his family rejects.
Alice Lin is the daughter of American pastor David Lin, who was detained under unclear circumstances in 2006 and later sentenced to life in prison on charges of contract fraud. Lin’s family staunchly maintains his innocence. Lin’s sentence was later reduced, and he is expected to be released in 2029.
“Secretary Blinken, we miss my dad. Please do everything possible to bring him home,” Lin told VOA.
Washington has said China’s military escalation in the Taiwan Strait was “a global concern.”
A senior State Department official told VOA it is an “abiding interest” of the U.S. to maintain peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. China is seen as ramping up economic coercion targeting Taiwan ahead of its presidential election.
In May, U.S. Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines told senators that a Chinese invasion of Taiwan could halt the world’s largest advanced semiconductor production, wiping out up to $1 trillion per year.
“I will say this number is way too small” because it only costs about 6% of China’s gross domestic product, said Chen-Yu Li who is the chief economist of Taishin Financial Holdings in Taiwan.
Li said a military conflict in the Taiwan Strait will affect other Asian economies such as Japan and South Korea, whose GDP totals at least 5 trillion. He also cited the market value of tech giants such as Apple, Nvidia, AMD which Li estimates is at least $3 trillion.
“If Taiwan is under attack, the stock market in the U.S. may vanish $3 trillion,” Li said during a May 12 event hosted by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
“If I am Xi Jinping, I’ll be very happy to attack Taiwan. It’s just 6%.”
In a signed letter to Blinken, 42 nongovernmental organizations urged the top U.S. diplomat to hold the Chinese government accountable for its human rights abuses, citing repression against ordinary people who participated in peaceful protests.
“Hong Kong police detained over 20 people for commemorating the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre after banning the annual Victoria Park candlelight vigil,” said the letter.