The State Department announced on Wednesday that Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken planned to leave on Friday for a visit to Beijing to stress to Chinese officials “the importance of maintaining open lines of communication to responsibly manage” the relationship between the two nations.
Mr. Blinken also plans to “raise bilateral issues of concern, global and regional matters, and potential cooperation on shared transnational challenges,” the State Department said.
The trip is one that Mr. Blinken had to reschedule after canceling a planned visit on the day of his departure in early February, when a Chinese spy balloon flying over the United States caused a political and public uproar. He plans to meet with officials for two days in Beijing before flying to a conference in London focused on the reconstruction of Ukraine.
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken had canceled a trip to China in February.Credit…Haiyun Jiang for The New York Times
Why It Matters: The U.S. and China want to maintain high-level diplomacy, despite tensions.
This would be Mr. Blinken’s first trip to China as secretary of state. Chinese and U.S. officials are still working out whether he will meet with Xi Jinping, China’s leader.
Both governments hope the visit will lead to a series of trips by senior U.S. officials to China over the summer. Potential visitors include Janet L. Yellen, the treasury secretary; Gina M. Raimondo, the commerce secretary; and John Kerry, a special envoy for climate.
The visits could pave the way for a trip by Mr. Xi to San Francisco in November for a leaders summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation group of nations that would include President Biden.
The two governments see high-level diplomacy as a potential anchor in a yearslong period of rising tensions. Under Mr. Xi, who took power in 2012, China has taken assertive actions in territories around it and has sought to wield greater economic and diplomatic influence, sometimes in a coercive manner, around the globe. Mr. Biden has continued the policy direction of the Trump administration and seeks to compete with China using military, economic, diplomatic, technological and intelligence means.
“Now is precisely the time for intense diplomacy,” Kurt M. Campbell, the top Asia policy official in the White House, said in a telephone briefing with reporters on Wednesday. “This is not a strategic shift or something new to American statecraft.”
Background: China sees U.S. policy as an effort to limit its power.
Mr. Campbell listed ways that the Biden administration has achieved a level of coordination on policies to constrain what U.S. officials call aggressive behavior by China. The United States has persuaded European allies to speak out more on areas of tension with China and has bolstered military alliances and partnerships in the Asia-Pacific region, including with Australia, Japan and the Philippines.
Chinese officials balk at those moves and say the United States seeks to encircle their country. The Chinese government claims the entire expanse of the South China Sea as its territory, as well as Taiwan, a de facto independent island. The U.S. Navy sends warships and aircraft through those areas regularly to maintain freedom of navigation and transit, and there have been recent close calls.
Chinese officials also condemn attempts by the United States and its allies to try to “de-risk” their economies, which means trying to sever certain commercial ties where there are national security concerns. The most striking example is the Biden administration’s effort to hobble China’s advanced semiconductor industry by banning the export of certain chips and tools to the country.
What’s Next: Diplomats talk about conflict and cooperation.
“We’re coming to Beijing with a realistic, confident approach and a sincere desire to manage our competition in the most responsible way possible,” Daniel J. Kritenbrink, the top East Asia official in the State Department, said in the telephone briefing. “We do hope, at a minimum, that we will achieve that goal. And we also do hope, of course, to make progress on a number of concrete issues.”