China: Blinken’s Visit and US Policy ‘Magic’



U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken travels to Beijing for a state visit June 18 – June 19, and the main theme of the visit has changed from China-U.S. “decoupling” to “de-risking.” The recent Group of Seven summit communiqué likewise declared a focus on de-risking rather than decoupling from China. So, what are the “risks” of Blinken’s visit to China? Or, to put it another way: On the Taiwan issue, which is at the heart of China-U.S. relations, how will cross-strait relations be affected?

The Positive Impact of a China-US Detente on Cross-Strait Relations

International relations are a bold and unconstrained field. From the struggle between ruling power and emerging power to the Thucydides Trap; from the temptation brought to bear on China by international capital to Henry Kissinger’s “diplomatic mediation”; from U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan’s visit to Japan and South Korea on June 15 to the obvious snub of Biden’s team of China hawks: Blinken’s China visit has been abuzz with all sorts of interesting sidelights. While this motley collection of signals suggests that expectations for Blinken’s visit to China are not particularly high, an article published in the U.S. argued that the objective of Blinken’s visit was to “work on both the economic and the security fronts,” including “cooperating on maintaining sound global macroeconomic development and establishing a military emergency communication channel,” which seems a loftier ambition.

This year has seen increasing friction between China and the U.S., with American and Canadian warships crossing the Taiwan Strait on June 3 and being intercepted by a Chinese destroyer. Contact and dialogue between China and the U.S. will not only affect the regional situation; it will also have an impact on the willingness of the Taiwanese people to pursue peace in the Taiwan Strait. The positive effects of a detente in China-U.S. relations will benefit the people on both sides of the strait.

The US and the Dilemma of Cross-Strait Relations

Over the past six years, from the Trump administration to the Biden administration, the main objective of U.S. policy on Taiwan has been to draw Taiwan in as part of its Indo-Pacific strategy due to the need for a strategy in the Asia Pacific. U.S. policy has indulged the forces of “Taiwan independence” and jeopardized the peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait region.

For example, in 2017, the U.S. government released its National Security Strategy report, which explicitly listed China as one of the main challenges to U.S. national security. In 2020, Congress passed a number of Taiwan-friendly bills, the main elements of which included continued arms sales to Taiwan; encouraging senior officials to visit Taiwan; and supporting Taiwan in obtaining observer status in international organizations that did not require statehood.

Inheriting the Trump administration’s policy toward Taiwan, the Biden administration established an Indo-Pacific alliance to safeguard the Indo-Pacific order on the pretext that China’s economic and military development threaten the strategic balance in the Indo-Pacific region. This was in response to the strategic competition between China and the U.S. For example, the America COMPETES Act, which has the greatest impact on China-U.S. relations, among other things includes regular arms sales to Taiwan; the possibility for Taiwan to display its “national flag” in the U.S.; the establishment of various foundations; recognition of Taiwan as an important part of the Indo-Pacific strategy; and the U.S. increasing the competitiveness of Taiwan’s semiconductor industry.

These practices have directly affected the Democratic Progressive Party of Taiwan’s “pro-U.S., anti-China” line, hampering the development of cross-strait relations at various levels and getting them into trouble. Blinken’s numerous remarks relating to Taiwan and exaggerating the “China threat” are just one example.

American Institute in Taiwan Signals its Advocacy of Cross-Strait Dialogue

The Taiwan issue is a core interest for China. How did Blinken deal with this insurmountable hurdle in Beijing? The United States’ performance was nothing short of magical.

For one thing, AIT Chair Laura Rosenberger, who visited Taiwan from June 5 – June 10 to meet with Taiwan’s three candidates in the 2024 election, stressed that “the United States looks forward to working with any elected leader” in Taiwan. Some commentators have suggested that although AIT is outwardly affirming Taiwan’s democratic institutions, secretly it is showing that, when it comes to American interests, it does not matter who is elected, because U.S. policy intentions toward Taiwan will be implemented anyway in what may be called a single haul of the net.

Second, the relationship between Taiwan and the Indo-Pacific strategy of the U.S. has changed, in that Rosenberger has expressed her desire for cross-strait dialogue. In stating her hope that Taiwan would maintain its pro-U.S. policy, she simultaneously weakened anti-China signals, suggesting that future Taiwanese leaders should cooperate with American strategic needs and safeguard U.S. interests in cross-strait relations.

Third, on June 11, former U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor Matt Pottinger led a delegation from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies on a six-day visit to Taiwan. This was Pottinger’s third visit to Taiwan in the first half of this year alone, and the delegation included Jacob Nagel, a former Israeli national security adviser, among others. The agenda included discussions with Taiwanese officials about “national security strategy” and “trilateral cooperation and exchange” between Taiwan, the U.S. and Israel. There was also a very eye-catching news commentary headline in the Taiwanese media, “Freedom in the Stormy Seas: Is Taiwan Ready?”

Clearly, AIT has gone to great lengths in signaling its advocacy of cross-strait dialogue: Its “magic” lies in claiming the benefit of cross-strait relations while at the same time showing that Blinken’s visit to Beijing is a strategic advance, rather than a strategic retreat. In this way, the Biden administration fulfills its “account to the American people.” The stars have aligned. “Just wait for Blinken to come to Beijing.” How can one gauge the heart of a gentleman with one’s own mean measure?

The Impact on Cross-Strait Relations

China hard-liners in the U.S. and Japan are uneasy about the development of cross-strait relations. As of now, several points present themselves:

First, the political pressure to criticize the Kuomintang’s reconciliation with the mainland will diminish, and the calls for opposing Taiwan independence, maintaining the status quo, and negotiating a cross-strait peace agreement are likely to become mainstream.

Second, there may be a reduction in the constant American provocation and goading of the DPP administration, aimed at creating tension in the region. Cross-strait dialogue is both a signal and a blow to the momentum of “de-Sinicization” in Taiwan, and the DPP’s “Taiwanization” process will further decelerate.

Third, the regional landscape will not shift based on the will of the U.S. Whether detente or confrontation, the relationship between China and the U.S. and its impact on cross-strait relations will be long-term and profound. The Taiwanese people are becoming increasingly uneasy about the security of Taiwan, constructed by and wholly reliant on the U.S. as it is. The regional economy, the Three Links, and cross-strait issues will become hot topics of public concern.

Fourth, the DPP has been reduced to strategic inactivity. The U.S. needs to engage with China at the economic and security strategy levels, such as the repatriation of the dollar, U.S. debt, trade and investment with China, regional industrial chains and NATO’s eastward expansion.

Fifth, on balance, U.S. policy on Taiwan may undergo some adjustment. The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting to be hosted by the U.S. this November is a relatively imminent point to watch for.


What are the Biden administration’s true intentions regarding its China policy? They are “magical,” as before, and Blinken’s visit to Beijing will far from shed any light on what the U.S. intends. One of the motives for the United States’ various maneuvers with China is to cover up the structural contradictions at home, including the political demands of the general election. The U.S. is still trying to control the intensity of tensions in the Taiwan Strait, so it will not relinquish the Taiwan card that easily.

However, the U.S. is playing the Taiwan card not because of Taiwan’s geostrategic value, but out of the need to maintain the trust of its allies outside Taiwan. Seeing this clearly is conducive to developing cross-strait relations unswervingly and without distractions.

The author is a researcher at the Shanghai Society of Taiwan Studies and a contributor to Taiwan’s International Institute of Strategic Studies. This article was cleared for simultaneous publication in Dong Media’s international strategic studies forum and on the China Times commentary channel.

About this publication

About Matthew McKay 105 Articles
A British citizen and raised in Switzerland, Matthew received his honors degree in Chinese Studies from the University of Oxford and, after 15 years in the private sector, went on to earn an MA in Chinese Languages, Literature and Civilization from the University of Geneva. Matthew is a member of the Chartered Institute of Linguists and an associate of both the UK's Institute of Translation and Interpreting and the Swiss Association of Translation, Terminology and Interpreting. Apart from Switzerland, he has lived in the UK, Taiwan and Germany, and his translation specialties include arts & culture, international cooperation, and neurodivergence.

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