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Blinken meets Han Zheng on sidelines of UN General Assembly

In a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday, Chinese Vice President Han Zheng said the two sides needed to meet each other halfway in a meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, according to Bloomberg.

Han Zheng, who holds the second post in the Chinese government, said:

China-U.S. relations face a lot of difficulties and challenges. It needs us both to display more sincerity, more efforts, and meet each other halfway.

Monday’s meeting completed a series of meetings between senior Chinese and U.S. officials in recent months ahead of a possible visit by Chinese leader Xi Jinping to San Francisco for an economic summit in November. Blinken claimed:

It’s a good thing that we have this opportunity to build on the recent high level engagements that our countries have had, to make sure that we’re maintaining open communications, and demonstrate that we are responsibly managing the relationship between our two countries.

The meeting in New York comes at a difficult time in China-U.S. relations, when geopolitical tensions persist over issues ranging from the future of Taiwan to trade, human rights and the global implications of China’s slowing economy. Recently, Xi has made dramatic changes in the composition of his cabinet, adding to the uncertainty over China’s direction is worsening. For example, Qin Gang was abruptly dismissed as foreign minister after only seven months in his new post. This was followed by the replacement of Defence Minister Li Shanfu, who U.S. officials believe was also removed from his post.

Han was a surprise replacement at UN meetings for Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who has been a familiar face at the top of China’s foreign policy system for years and met with Blinken on the sidelines of last year’s UN General Assembly. Han Zheng told Blinken he hoped the U.S. would take “pragmatic measures for the healthy and stable development of U.S.-China relations.”

Over the weekend, Wang met with President Joe Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan for talks in Malta. The talks were aimed at discussing Xi’s possible participation in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting. The Biden administration has tried to defuse tensions by sending a number of Cabinet officials to Beijing recently, including Blinken in June and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo in late August. Blinken had told the Chinese delegation on Monday before the two sides began talks:

The world expects us to responsibly manage our relationship. The United States is committed to doing just that.

Although U.S. officials talk about the importance of maintaining open channels of communication, these visits have not shown concrete diplomatic or geopolitical success. In early September, shortly after Raimondo’s visit, China’s top spy agency said the Biden administration’s strategy toward Beijing was “doomed to failure.”


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