U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to make his first trip to Beijing to meet with high ranking Chinese government officials, which may include President Xi Jinping, U.S. media is reporting.
The veracity of the reports are something of a coin flip, as Bloomberg simultaneously stated in a June 6 article that “people familiar with the matter” told them the trip was scheduled “in the coming weeks” while a spokesperson for the State Department said that no travel to China had been arranged.
Yet the announcement appears to be a component of a larger trend, which began with a late-May trip to Beijing and Shanghai by Elon Musk, where the Tesla CEO and Twitter owner was formally received by Foreign Minister Qin Gang.
Musk’s appearance in the mainland was his first since the novel coronavirus pandemic began, which represents a notable lag considering the majority of Model 3 and Model Y units are built at the Shanghai Gigafactory.
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But Musk’s appearance was not an isolated incident. Just days prior, Financial Times had reported that CEO of premier U.S. banking institution cornerstone JP Morgan, Jamie Dimon, was also making his first trip to China since the pandemic in a meeting where Dimon was accompanied by the CEOs of Starbucks and Pfizer to meet with the top executives of Baidu and Geely.
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At Dimon’s side for the trip was also a pair of highly influential figures in Henry Kissinger and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice who attended the meetings via the Internet.
Bloomberg’s reporting comes just a day after the Department of State published a formal press release announcing that Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs and National Security Council Senior Director for China and Taiwan Affairs, Daniel Kritenbrink and Sarah Beran, had met with PRC officials in Beijing.
The trip was originally announced by the State Department on June 3 as involving a trip for the pair between China and New Zealand that would span June 4 to June 10
Kritenbrink and Beran were accompanied by Ambassador Nicholas Burns and met with the Vice Foreign Minister of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a Director-level member of the Oceanian Affairs Department.
Yet tensions ostensibly remain hot between Beijing and the Biden administration.
Bloomberg’s article stated that National Security Council spokesman John Kerby told reporters that “it won’t be long before somebody gets hurt” in reference to incidents where China’s military had intercepted an American ship and surveillance aircraft.
When questioned about Kritenbrink and Beran’s trip to Beijing, Kirby responded, “And they felt that they had good useful, conversations with PRC officials about that and to that end, and I think you’ll see us speak to future visits here in the near future, but I just don’t want to get ahead of the schedule.”
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) had reiterated its “solemn position” on Taiwan during the meeting in comments made by the Foreign Ministry on the meeting, CNN reported.
However, this year’s message was terse, stating that “the Government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) sent tanks into Tiananmen Square to brutally repress peaceful Chinese pro-democracy protesters and bystanders alike.”
“The victims’ bravery will not be forgotten and continues to inspire advocates for these principles around the world. The United States will continue advocating for people’s human rights and fundamental freedoms in China and around the world,” Blinken added.
Outlets such as Mediaite noted a significant difference in length and tone between this year’s statement and 2022’s statement, which contained far greater elaboration: “The 50-day protest ended abruptly on June 4, 1989, with a brutal assault by the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) military. Countless were imprisoned and the number of deaths is still unknown today.”
The 2022 version also stepped on several other CCP sore points in its comments, “We will continue to speak out and promote accountability for PRC atrocities and human rights abuses, including those in Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and Tibet.”
“To the people of China and to those who continue to stand against injustice and seek freedom, we will not forget June 4,” last year’s statement concluded.
Mediaite posited that “this was likely not an oversight, but an intentional policy choice” based on comments on social media from “knowledgeable observers.”
Republicans took advantage of the timing between the Kritenbrink and Beran trip and the Massacre.
House of Representatives member Darrel Issa (R-CA), who sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, framed the trip as “no ordinary foreign policy stumble” in comments to Fox News.
“It’s a concession demanded by the Chinese and granted by a White House and State Department willing to bend. It’s a major coup for Xi, and America’s position in the world just got weaker – where it matters most,” Issa added.
Nonetheless, saber rattling between the Beijing and Washington military arms continued amid the meetings between the American and Chinese financial sector and diplomatic branches.
The Guardian reported on June 3 that Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin had told an audience at the Shangri-La Dialogue conference held in Singapore that, “A cordial handshake over dinner is no substitute for a substantive engagement.”
Austin’s comments came in reference to a situation wherein his counterpart, Minister of Defense Gen. Li Shangfu, had declined to meet with Austin but did grant the courtesy of shaking hands “before sitting down at opposite sides of the same table together as the forum opened,” The Guardian added.
In a June 4 follow up article, The Guardian quoted General Li as stating, “A cold war mentality is now resurgent, greatly increasing security risks…Mutual respect should prevail over bullying and hegemony.”
Li also stated, “It is undeniable that a severe conflict or confrontation between China and the US will be an unbearable disaster for the world.”