US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L) attends a meeting with China’s President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on June 19, 2023.
Leah Millis | Afp | Getty Images
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday ended a high-stakes visit to Beijing with an unexpected meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, who stressed the world needs steady relations between their nations after a period of simmering tensions.
During the meeting at the Diaoyutai state guest house — which lasted 35 minutes, according to the U.S. State Department — Xi stressed the world needed a “generally stable” China-U.S. relationship and that whether the two countries can find the right way to get along “bears on the future of humanity,” Chinese state agency Xinhua reported.
“I hope that, through this visit, Mr. Secretary, you will make more positive contributions to stabilizing China-U.S. relations,” the Chinese leader said in a video carried by Chinese state television outlet CCTV, following “candid and in-depth discussions” between the two officials that led to progress and agreement on some undetailed “specific issues.”
Blinken said U.S. President Joe Biden had asked him to travel to China because “he believes the United States and China have an obligation to responsibly manage our relationship.”
“The United States is committed to doing that,” Blinken said. “It’s in the interest of the United States in the interest of China and in the interest of the world.”
“I appreciate this opportunity to discuss a way forward with you,” Blinken told Xi.
Blinken’s trip — which had not initially confirmed a meeting with Xi on the agenda — makes him the highest-level American official to visit China since Biden became U.S. president, as well as the first U.S. secretary of State to make the trip in nearly five years.
His original travel plans for February were disrupted by news of an alleged Chinese spy balloon flying over U.S. airspace, in an incident that stoked tensions between the world’s two largest economies.
The visit could pave the way for a November meeting between Biden and Xi, after the two world leaders last met in person on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Bali late last year.
Blinken’s encounter with Xi echoed the optimistic, communication-geared tone of the State Secretary’s other meetings with senior Chinese officials in recent days.
On Sunday, he undertook “candid, substantive, and constructive talks” with Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang, before speaking with top Chinese diplomat Wang Yi on Monday.
Upon seeing Wang, Blinken “underscored the importance of responsibly managing the competition between the United States and the PRC through open channels of communication to ensure competition does not veer into conflict,” State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a statement.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L) shakes hands with China’s President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on June 19, 2023.
Leah Millis | Afp | Getty Images
Wang stressed that the Blinken visit came at a critical juncture in Sino-U.S. relations, in a statement released by the Chinese foreign ministry translated via Google. He said that the difficulties in the countries’ ties are rooted in the U.S.’ “erroneous perception of China, which leads to wrong policies towards China.”
Wang further urged Washington to give up its so-called “China threat theory,” to lift sanctions against Beijing and to no longer suppress China’s technological development.
The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wang’s characterization of the nature of U.S.-China difficulties.
The high-level diplomatic engagements between Washington and Beijing come as several business leaders have embarked on visits to China in recent months, including Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon and Apple CEO Tim Cook.
China’s Xi held talks with Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates last week, saying he hoped the friendship between the people of China and the U.S. would continue.
“I often say that the foundation of China-U.S. relations lies in the people. We always place our hopes on the American people and hope that the friendship between the two peoples will continue,” Xi said on Friday, according to CCTV.
Xi also told Gates he is the “first American friend” that he’d met in Beijing this year.
— CNBC’s Evelyn Cheng contributed to this report.