Janet Yellen, the United States’s Treasury secretary, will visit Beijing this week in the second trip by a top official in a matter of weeks as the world’s two biggest economies try to repair frayed ties.
Yellen will travel to Beijing from July 6-9, the US Treasury Department said in a statement on Sunday. The visit was also confirmed in a statement by China’s Finance Ministry on Monday morning.
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Yellen is expected to discuss the importance for both countries “to responsibly manage our relationship, communicate directly about areas of concern, and work together to address global challenges,” the Treasury Department statement said.
Yellen’s visit comes just weeks after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met China’s President Xi Jinping, leading diplomat Wang Yi and Foreign Minister Qin Gang in Beijing in June.
Blinken was the highest-ranking US official to visit the Chinese capital in nearly five years and reached an agreement with Xi to stabilise ties and ensure rivalry did not veer into conflict.
China protested loudly when US President Joe Biden subsequently referred to Xi as a “dictator”, but analysts say the remark had little impact on efforts to improve ties.
In Beijing, Yellen will meet senior Chinese officials and leading US firms, a Treasury official told journalists without going into specifics. A second administration official told the Reuters news agency that Yellen was expected to meet the Chinese Vice Premier He Lifeng.
One clear area of concern involved China’s new national security and espionage law, which came into force on July 1, and the potential implications for foreign and US firms, the official added.
“We have concerns with the new measure and how it might apply, that it could expand the scope of what is considered by the authorities in China to be espionage activity,” the official said, citing possible spillovers into the broader investment climate and the economic relationship.
Ties between the US and China have deteriorated over a range of issues from the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic to the crackdown on the mostly Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang, to trade and supply chain issues as well as the self-ruled island of Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its own.
The discovery of an alleged Chinese spy balloon flying across the US, which was eventually shot down, further exacerbated tensions.
While the US seeks to secure its national security interests and protect human rights, actions to this effect are “not intended to gain economic advantage over China”, the official added, saying that Yellen would be aiming to build longer-term channels of communication with China.
For the US, discussions with officials from the world’s second-biggest economy “are important to help spur stronger global economic growth and to tackle the mounting debt problem of the Global South”, Wendy Cutler, the vice president at the Asia Society Policy Institute, told the AFP news agency when discussing the Yellen visit.
On Beijing’s part, officials are “looking for concrete steps taken by the US to show that ‘decoupling’ and holding back China is not the ultimate goal of the United States”, Cutler added.
Blinken’s reception in Beijing has been seen as a symbolic sign of lowering temperatures.