A thaw in the Sino-US relations?

By Imran Khalid | Gwadar Pro Jun 21, 2023

Editor's Note: The writer is a freelance columnist on international affairs based in Karachi, Pakistan. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of Gwadar Pro.

In a seemingly benign display of diplomacy and positive turn of events, the United States and China have embarked on a path of dialogue, signaling a desire to engage in continued discussions. Nonetheless, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to China has corroborated Beijing’s long-time position that power of dialogue will foster a climate of engagement and cooperation between the two countries. The commitment to continued discussions is the best outcome that was expected of his two-day closely watched yatra to Beijing.

This signifies willingness on the part of China to build bridges and find common ground. Furthermore, the anticipated visits of prominent US officials, including Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and climate envoy John Kerry, to China are additional indicators of the commitment to open channels of communication and cooperation. Reportedly, Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang is also expected to visit the US in the coming months.

The dedication to dialogue demonstrated by both the United States and China sets a promising precedent for the future, as countries strive to overcome their differences and work collaboratively. Amidst the shadows of strained relations, Secretary of State Antony Blinken's visit to China assumes quite significance. Dubbed as a "rare" and "high-stakes" encounter, it has provided an opportunity to recalibrate the delicate balance between these global powers. With bilateral ties languishing at their nadir in recent memory, this diplomatic overture seeks to forge a pathway towards stability. Indeed, a litany of contentious issues such as trade, national security, and technology has eroded the fabric of this critical relationship.

Moreover, the Taiwan Straits have become a hotbed of escalating tensions, fueled by the United States' recurrent acts of provocation, both through political maneuverings and military posturing. In recent times, the China-US relationship has encountered a formidable array of challenges, culminating in a state of frozen dialogue and communication. This tenuous situation has been underscored by the unfortunate "balloon incident," serving as a poignant reminder of the inherent fragility and instability permeating bilateral ties. As the dust settles, the imperative for constructive engagement and revitalized channels of communication becomes ever more pronounced.

Although Blinken's engagement the Chinese officials did not yield much tangible outcomes, but discussions progressed on enhancing air travel and fostering greater interaction among students and business leaders- certainly a positive omen. But for the justified reasons, China is not ready to resume high-level military talks unless the US lifts sanctions on Defense Minister Li Shangfu.

The meeting between Antony Blinken and Chinese President Xi Jinping, which was not the part of original itinerary and was arranged at the last minute by the Chinese side as a gesture of courtesy, was the highlight of Blinken’s visit to China and attracted the global media attention. The meeting between Xi and Blinken carries a symbolic weight in the affirmation of China's unwavering commitment to fostering a stable trajectory for bilateral relations. This important development has set the stage for the next phase of high-level interactions between China and the United States in the months to come.

President Xi's profound discourse highlighted the principled approach aimed at fostering stability and growth in China-US relations. Against a backdrop of low expectations and a tumultuous journey, Blinken's visit to China has yielded some positives, characterized by mutual commitment for substantive communications at all levels. Notably, Blinken's statements have displayed some shift in the American alignment towards China's position, with a commitment to returning to the agenda established during the Bali summit between President Xi and President Biden. However, it is crucial to emphasize that achieving the desired stability in China-US relations necessitates reciprocal efforts, with both sides meeting halfway. In particular, the United States must exhibit consistency in both rhetoric and actions to sustain progress.

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