Blinken’s Visit to China

Following a number of complications, Secretary of State Antony Blinken finally confirmed his visit to China. On June 14, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin announced that Blinken will visit China on June 18 and 19.*

The U.S. media believe that Blinken will meet with high-level Chinese officials, including Foreign Minister Qin Gang, and might even have the opportunity to go to Beijing to meet with Chinese leader Xi Jinping. China, however, has not confirmed whether Blinken will meet with Xi. In any event, this is the first visit by America’s highest-ranking diplomat to China since former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit in October 2018. It is also an opportunity for the two great powers — America and China — to begin high-level talks. Hopefully, it will aid both sides in further understanding each other, or at least help in preventing a misunderstanding that could lead to accidentally igniting a war.

The U.S. and China have faced many barriers to communication. A few days ago, The Washington Post cited at least three anonymous U.S. officials who revealed that China and Cuba have secretly agreed to establish a “spy base” on the island. According to this report, the location of this electronic eavesdropping facility is 160 kilometers (approximately 99 miles) from Florida, which will allow Chinese intelligence to eavesdrop on electronic communications in the southeastern part of the U.S. and monitor U.S. ships, among other things. U.S. officials further revealed that China had actually begun spying from Cuba long ago and increased such activity in 2019 with intelligence-gathering facilities. CNN and The New York Times later picked up this story, which indicates that this issue has attracted the attention of American commentators.

Actually, it’s difficult to believe that China and Cuba have cooperated on intelligence gathering for as long as four years without the U.S. knowing. Because the U.S., China and Cuba have all come forward to deny this, people familiar within the foreign affairs community believe that someone must have leaked this information intentionally for two possible reasons. The first would be to give Blinken more of a bargaining chip on his visit so that he can obtain more favorable negotiating terms. The second is that it can’t be ruled out that there may be hawkish people in America’s political world who are unhappy about high-level meetings between the U.S. and China. Just like they hyped up the “spy balloon” incident in February, these people would prevent Blinken’s trip to China by increasing hostility between the two countries over China and Cuba’s spy and intelligence cooperation. Fortunately, the White House has stated that this issue will not affect Blinken’s itinerary.

Another incident worth paying attention to is the dispute between China and the Philippines in the South China Sea. The BRP Sierra Madre, a landing ship from World War II, has been stranded on the Second Thomas Shoal in the Spratly Islands for 24 years. Because both China and the Philippines claim sovereignty of the Second Thomas Shoal, China ordered the Philippines to remove the ship or Beijing would act. The June 15 deadline China imposed has already passed, and currently, a large Chinese tugboat has appeared at the shoal. However, U.S. Pacific Fleet Cmdr. Samuel Paparo has stressed that the U.S. military is prepared at any time to help the Philippines exercise its sovereignty. The USS Ronald Reagan has already passed through the Bashi Channel and is prepared to enter the South China Sea. Whether the suddenly tense situation between the U.S., China and the Philippines will affect Blinken’s visit on June 18 remains to be seen.

In the past few months, the Biden administration has continually sought high-level dialogues with Beijing. On the one hand, it is trying to control the situation in the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea to avoid accidents caused by strategic misunderstanding. On the other hand, now that the U.S. debt ceiling crisis has temporarily passed, the U.S. needs buyers to assume newly issued bonds. Of the international community, only China can save the investment market. Therefore, the U.S. has already arranged for Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo to visit China after Blinken returns to further discuss related financial matters. If all goes well, Biden and Xi might take advantage of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in San Francisco to meet this November. There are many obstacles to such high-level talks, so hopefully both political leaders will have the wisdom to resolve difficulties and facilitate dialogue.

*Editor’s note: Although this diplomatic visit took place after this editorial was published, the editors feel it retains relevant opinion value and are thus publishing the article.

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