US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to Beijing early next week with little expectation that he will make progress on the long list of disagreements between the United States and China.
Analysts say he can achieve at least one thing with his Chinese counterparts to show that the world’s most important bilateral relationship is not about to collapse.
Sources said that Secretary Blinken will hold meetings in China on Sunday and Monday and may meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
This would make him the highest-ranking US government official to visit China since President Joe Biden took office in January 2021.
In a briefing on Wednesday, US officials said they did not expect the visit to bring about a breakthrough in the way Washington and Beijing treat each other.
This came in the wake of a tense phone call with Secretary Blinken on Tuesday evening, during which his Chinese counterpart, Qin Gang, asked the United States to stop interfering in his country’s affairs.
The visit, which could pave the way for a series of other diplomatic encounters including one between Xi and Biden this year, could show that the two foes haven’t given up on diplomacy.
Relations between the two countries are deteriorating in various fields, which has raised fears that the rivalry between them will turn into a conflict over Taiwan, which China considers its province.
The two countries are also at odds over issues such as trade, microchips and human rights.
Of particular concern to China’s neighbors is its reluctance to allow regular military talks with Washington, despite repeated US attempts to do so.
US officials said on Wednesday that opening contact lines in the event of a crisis to reduce risks is a top priority.
US officials said Blinken’s main goal during the visit was to have frank, direct and constructive discussions.
However, a breakthrough is unlikely on any of the major issues, such as the issue of Americans detained in China.