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Blinken to China to 'Maintain Ties'

FILE: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks at the White House in Washington, on June 13, 2023. Blinken and Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang had a phone call Wednesday, June 14, 2023 ahead of a planned visit by the U.S. official to China meant to shore up relations.

WASHINGTON — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken goes to Beijing this weekend with expectations low that he will make headway on the long list of disputes between the United States and China. Analysts say he wants to show that the world's most important bilateral relationship is not faltering.

Secretary Blinken will hold meetings in China on June 18-19 and may meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping, sources said. He will be the highest-ranking U.S. government official to visit China since President Joe Biden took office in January 2021.

In a pre-trip briefing on Wednesday, U.S. officials said they have no expectation the trip will yield a breakthrough in how the U.S. and China deal with each other. That followed a tense evening phone call with Blinken on Tuesday during which Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang told the U.S. to stop meddling in China's affairs.

China's foreign ministry followed up on Friday, warning that "vicious competition ... cannot be engaged in" and that the United States "should not fantasize that it is dealing with China from a position of strength."

"This is not so-called responsible competition, but extremely irresponsible hegemonic behavior which will only push China and the U.S. towards confrontation," foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin told reporters.

The visit, which could set the stage for a flurry of other diplomatic engagements including a meeting between Xi and U.S. President Joe Biden later in the year, would show that the two rivals have not given up on diplomacy.

"Both sides want to show the rest of the world that they are managing the relationship responsibly," said Andrew Small, a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund’s Asia program.

"For China, the most important audience is the global south. For the U.S., it's partners and allies. So even going through the motions has some utility for both Washington and Beijing."