U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken (left) meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping (right) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on June 19, 2023.
Leah Millis | AFP | Getty Images
BEIJING — Secretary of State Antony Blinken emphasized the importance of the economic side of the bilateral relationship between the United States and China during his landmark trip to Beijing earlier this week.
At a news conference wrapping up his visit on Monday, Blinken pointed to record trade between the two countries and said the United States was “ready to work with China” on “macroeconomic stability” and other areas of mutual concern.
Earlier in the day, he met with U.S. companies in the health care, auto and entertainment industries in China, the State Department said. U.S. foreign policy chiefs meeting with businesses cannot be taken for granted on visits of this nature.
Michael Hart, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in China, told CNBC: “I know in particular that when Blinken (scheduled to) come before February, we lobbied and were told the business community didn’t have time.”
Hart said he did not know what might have changed since then, but noted a similar focus on business when German Foreign Minister Annalene Berberk visited Beijing in April.
“It shows that politicians really understand the importance of economic linkages and political stability between these two economies,” Hart said. “That’s important.”
The German Chamber of Commerce in China said Bellbock visited German gearbox manufacturer Flender during his trip to Beijing.
Chairman Colm Rafferty and Vice Chairman Roberta Lipson attended the meeting with Blinken on behalf of AmCham China. The State Department referred CNBC to Blinken’s news conference on Monday when asked about AmCham China’s comments about not being able to meet with the secretary during a planned February trip.
Blinken met with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday as part of a trip to Beijing, the first visit by a U.S. secretary of state since 2018.
Gabriel Wildau, managing director of consulting firm Teneo, said the most important economic takeaway from Blinken’s trip was that it happened, especially the meeting with Xi Jinping.
“Investors’ biggest concern is that the bilateral relationship is in an unstoppable vicious circle,” he said. “Just by signaling that the relationship may stop deteriorating, both sides can ease the pressure on companies to explore options for decoupling.”
Blinken also met with Wang Yi, director of the Foreign Affairs Office of the CPC Central Committee, and Qin Gang, State Councilor and Foreign Minister.
U.S.-China tensions have escalated under the Trump administration. It has focused on using tariffs and sanctions to try to address longstanding complaints that U.S. companies cannot access the Chinese market in the same way as local firms.
Blinken told reporters at a news conference on Monday that he had heard about the problems U.S. companies face in China and their desire to grow their local businesses.He described doing business in China as in America’s best interest
Regulatory challenges aside, the more pressing issue for businesses has been the slowdown in economic growth in China and the United States over the past few months.
The Federal Reserve has aggressively raised interest rates to curb domestic inflation. The People’s Bank of China began cutting key interest rates this month to support growth.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is among the U.S. officials expected to visit Beijing in the near future.
Global macroeconomic stability is one of the items the two countries should work on together, U.S. President Joe Biden said during his November meeting with Xi Jinping, According to the reading.
On Monday, Blinken listed similar areas of potential cooperation, including climate and the economy.
He said growth in major economies such as China was in the U.S. interest and described the economic relationship between the two countries as “vital.”
“But at the same time, as I said, it’s not in our interest to provide China with technology that could be used against us,” he said.
The Biden administration has used sanctions and export controls to limit the ability of U.S. companies to work with Chinese partners on advanced technologies such as high-end semiconductors.
On the Taiwan issue, Blinken also proposed economic angle. He noted that a crisis on the island could “create an economic crisis that could, literally, affect the entire world.”
He pointed out that 50% of commercial container traffic passes through the Taiwan Strait every day, and 70% of semiconductors are manufactured in Taiwan.
Blinken said he had expressed to the Chinese “very clearly” growing concerns about Beijing’s recent “provocative actions” — and the “serious consequences” for the world if the Taiwan crisis escalated.
Beijing claims Taiwan as part of its territory and insists it seeks “peaceful reunification” with the democratically self-governing island. The United States recognizes Beijing as the sole government of China but maintains unofficial ties with Taiwan.
Blinken said the basic understanding in the United States is that any differences over Taiwan “will be resolved peacefully.” He reiterated that the United States does not support Taiwan independence.