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The backstory: The relationship between China and the US has been steadily growing more tense over a series of issues that have strained ties. A year ago, the US imposed restrictions on Chinese companies, making it mandatory for them to obtain licenses for advanced US chips and chipmaking equipment. A few other countries also followed suit. Then, China investigated US chip company, Micron, citing security concerns and accused the US of mixing politics with business. Meanwhile, China also restricted the export of key materials (gallium and germanium) used in electronics and chip production. And ties didn’t warm up when the US downed an alleged Chinese spy balloon earlier this year.
Adding a fresh layer of complexity to the US-China relationship is the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict, and the US is looking to Beijing to use its influence with Iran to prevent an escalation into a broader Middle East war.
More recently: In August, there were notable diplomatic developments between the two nations. Chinese Premier Li Qiang met with a delegation of the US-China Business Council, signaling China's commitment to treat foreign-funded businesses the same as domestic ones. US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo visited Beijing the same month, showing both sides' commitment to improving economic communication and cooperation, including sharing info on how they enforce export controls.
The development: Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi made history on Thursday by visiting Washington, marking the first time a Chinese foreign minister set foot on US soil since 2018. During his stay, he held extensive discussions, including a meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday, followed by a one-hour meeting with US President Joe Biden on Friday.
The White House saw these talks as a "good opportunity" to maintain open communication. Conversations between Wang and US officials addressed a wide range of topics, including military communication, China's activities in the South China Sea, Taiwan, human rights and even the export of fentanyl ingredients. Talks also addressed Americans detained in China, while Blinken and Wang talked about the escalating conflict in the Middle East.
One big outcome was the anticipation of a meeting between Presidents Biden and Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in San Francisco next month. But Wang did say on Sunday that the “road to the San Francisco summit will not be a smooth one" and that traveling there would not be on “autopilot.”
"China attaches importance to the US side's hopes of stabilizing and improving US ties with China," said Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi during his meeting with President Joe Biden.
“In China-US relations, from time to time, there will be some jarring voices,” said Wang. “When it happens, China treats it calmly because we are of the view that what is right and what is wrong is not to be determined by who has a stronger arm or louder voice, but if one behaves in a way that is consistent with the provisions of the three China-US joint communiques, consistent with international law and basic norms of international relations and consistent with the climate of the times.”
“Members of this council and permanent members in particular have a special responsibility to prevent this conflict from spreading,” said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken last Tuesday in remarks at the UN Security Council referring to the Israel/Hamas conflict. “I look forward to continuing to work with my counterpart from the People’s Republic of China to do precisely that when he visits Washington later this week.”