Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi paid a visit to the United States from October 26 to October 28, 2023. His delegation had discussions with their American counterparts, led by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan. Additionally, President Biden and Wang Yi had a special guest meeting. This has grown to be an extremely significant occasion.
Among other things, this indicates that the two superpowers intend to maintain bilateral channels of communication to express their respective opinions on issues pertaining to Beijing-Washington ties as well as other facets of the current global landscape. This becomes significant when new, potentially dangerous turbulent zones arise. These zones have the potential to act as triggers for the collapse of said landscape
Thus, the long-standing process of fundamentally reforming the world order would run off the rails of a more or less smooth, beneficial path for every (?) individual, with a potential of instantaneously turning into a global kerfuffle. Given the destructive nature of the “tools” gathered at this point, which have long permitted adversaries to settle scores with one another, this new kerfuffle might as well be the last one.
The NEO previously mentioned two key recent developments in US-China relations: US Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen’s visit to Beijing in early July, and three months later, a delegation of senators, which is the upper chamber of the American Parliament, also visited China. Coinciding with Wang Yi’s visit to the United States was the visit of California Governor Gavin Newsom to China.
Note that California has the most extensive and diverse trade and economic links with China. Specifically, this state has continuously shown itself to be the most representative exhibitor of the American pavilion at the PRC’s largest annual international trade fair – China International Import Expo (CIIE) The US pavilion, on the other hand, has consistently been the biggest of all the international exhibitors. This year, the annual China International Import Expo (CIIE) will take place in Shanghai from November 5–10. And Gavin Newsom’s visit to China included Shanghai as one of his main destinations.
The highlight of the California governor’s visit was a reception hosted for him by Chinese leader Xi Jinping. As noted by Chinese experts and demonstrated by the meeting itself, establishing “stable and mutually beneficial ties with the US, and values its relationship with US states” is crucial.
Let us highlight a significant recent development that resulted from the governors’ recent engagement in foreign policy issues. At the same time, special emphasis is placed not on China, but on Taiwan, which is arguably the main source of friction in US-China ties. In late October, Taiwan welcomed the ninth US governor in a row – Montana Governor Greg Gianforte,
While Gavin Newsom’s visit to China is more of an exception to the aforementioned phenomena, the “distribution of preferences” in the foreign trips of American governors is one of the best evidences of the tremendous intricacy of these ties.
However, let us acknowledge the unique significance of Wang Yi’s discussed journey to the United States without diminishing the value of any other previous US-China contacts. This is mostly due to the guest’s actual standing in the PRC’s leadership hierarchy. He continued to serve as the second person in charge of determining the foreign policy direction of the nation after taking up the role of head of the Chinese Foreign Ministry again. During this trip, Wang Yi, in fact, served as a confidant of the Chinese leader.
Wang Yi’s major goal seemed to be to make a final assessment of the key geopolitical opponent’s existing contacts in terms of their compliance with the potential of convening a summit meeting, which has long been considered, first and foremost, by Washington. The upcoming APEC conference in mid-November, which will be held in San Francisco this time, could be a good opportunity for this, as happened a year ago on the sidelines of one of the ASEAN forums held in Indonesia.
As far as one can understand, a decision in favor of this matter has already been made. One indirect indication of this is the fact that the US president hosted a Chinese guest. Though certain “uncertainties” persist in China regarding this issue.
It should be noted that the impending US-China meeting is unlikely to bring about any miracles in bilateral ties. They haven’t been seen since a similar meeting in Indonesia. The world’s two leading powers are still divided by issues that are too serious and too big to be resolved through personal interactions between leaders. Instead, the noisy public “summits” are usually just intended to document the outcomes that have already been attained “at working levels.” Regarding the same Taiwan issue, nothing has changed in the interim, or at the very least in halting the South China Sea’s escalation process. To put it simply, things are tense on the Korean peninsula.
Let us emphasize once again how crucial it is to give “local” elements more weight in the turbulence amplification process in all of the aforementioned and other “heated” zones. The world’s leading powers are compelled to respond to it. Though there is undoubtedly some of their own “intrigue” as well.
In general, the PRC responded to the outcomes of Wang Yi’s visit to the US with caution and optimism. Yet, their view is highlighted in the Department of State’s briefing of Antony Blinken’s discussions with Wang Yi “as part of ongoing efforts to maintain open lines of communication on a full range of issues and responsibly manage the US-China relationship.”
In comments on the results of the trip to the United States by Chinese Foreign Minister, made by Reuters and one of the leading Japanese newspapers, Japan Times, special emphasis is placed on the fact that it was the first visit to Washington for a Chinese statesman of this level in the previous five years.
Again, take note of the positive symbolic gestures that have emerged in US-China relations. Specifically, the first meeting of the “joint economic working group” was held, whose formation was ultimately one of the results of the previously mentioned Janet Yellen’s visit to Beijing. A business delegation from China inked eleven contracts in Iowa with American counterparts to purchase grain and other agricultural products valued at billions of dollars. This is the first agreement of its kind since 2018, according to the Global Times commentary, when “the US has effectively launched a trade war with the PRC.”
The Phase 1 Agreement, reached in early 2020 to address the significant (about $400 billion) negative balance of US – China trade, was unable to halt it. In this respect, the aforementioned Iowa agreement serves more as a reminder that the bilateral system previously made an effort to find a solution to one of the most excruciating issues.
What was even more notable was the revelation that the 10th Xiangshan Security Forum opened in Beijing on October 29 and that the US Department of Defense planned to send a delegation (led, however, by some “China specialist”). It is still impossible to predict what this could signify in terms of restoring (in reality, stopped) contacts between these services of the two major world powers, given the current uncertainty with the Chinese military leadership.
Everything mentioned above merely serves to support the conclusion that both nations maintain open lines of communication and even convey to one another their intention to not shirk the necessity to resolve a variety of issues pertaining to their bilateral ties.
So, let’s keep an eye on how it really functions for both parties.
Vladimir Terekhov, expert on the issues of the Asia-Pacific region, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”