Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s meetings in Beijing, although they may have momentarily stabilized US-Chinese relations, failed to make progress in reducing military tensions or the risk of a war breaking out over Taiwan, former US diplomat Chas Freeman said.
Blinken made a long-awaited trip to Beijing to meet with senior Chinese officials, including President Xi Jinping, in an attempt to improve relations that had spiraled to new lows over a number of issues including a possible confrontation over Taiwan. Although he described the talks as constructive, Blinken on Monday told reporters China did not agree to restore military-to-military channels for managing crisis communications.
“There were no breakthroughs in the relationship between the two governments and the danger of war was not reduced,” Freeman, who was the principal American interpreter during President Nixon’s historic visit to China in 1972, said. “But Blinken’s aim was to stabilize, not enhance the Sino-American relationship. It has been stabilized for the moment at the atrociously bad level it has reached since the United States launched its economic war on China five years ago.”
Although there will likely be future exchanges between high-level officials on issues like trade, Freeman added, there is no evidence that there will be an economic truce between the United States and China.
Freeman added, however, that minor progress was made on some fronts, like reassuring allies that the two sides were engaging in dialogue.
“Some measure of polite dialogue is necessary to allay the concerns of the nations of the global community – who rightly fear that miscommunication between the United States and China could have tragic consequences,” Freeman, who also served as an assistant US defense secretary, said. “Blinken’s meetings in Beijing met that very low standard.”
On a positive note, Freeman added, the two sides agreed to facilitate travel and transport between the two countries to ensure the continuation of people-to-people contacts, notwithstanding tensions in the official relationship.
“And Blinken demonstrated that official contacts can continue despite hysterical opposition from demagogues in the US Congress,” he said.
The US government has enraged Beijing by repeatedly sending military aid to Taiwan. Beijing opposes any official contacts of foreign states with Taipei and considers Chinese sovereignty over the island indisputable.
Blinken during the trip reiterated that Washington does not support the independence of Taiwan, but voiced concerns to China about “provocative” actions.