US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has arrived in Beijing for the start of a four-day visit that she says aims to deepen communication between the United States and China amid months of simmering tensions.
In a series of tweets on Thursday, shortly after she arrived in China’s capital, Yellen said she was “glad” to be there to meet Chinese officials and business leaders.
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“We seek a healthy economic competition that benefits American workers and firms and to collaborate on global challenges, we will take action to protect our national security when needed, and this trip presents an opportunity to communicate and avoid miscommunication or misunderstanding,” she said.
Ties between Beijing and Washington have soured in recent years over a range of issues, from trade and the status of Taiwan to China’s expansive claims in the South China Sea and an ongoing US push against growing Chinese influence in the Indo-Pacific.
But senior members of US President Joe Biden’s administration have said they are seeking to manage those tensions and are not looking for confrontation with China.
I am glad to be in Beijing to meet with Chinese officials and business leaders. We seek a healthy economic competition that benefits American workers and firms and to collaborate on global challenges,
— Secretary Janet Yellen (@SecYellen) July 6, 2023
Yellen received a low-key welcome from a Chinese finance ministry official and the US envoy to China, Nicholas Burns, as she stepped off a government plane on Thursday.
Both sides are sceptical that Yellen’s visit will be able to take much heat out of US-China ties, however, with officials accepting that both countries have placed safeguarding national security above economic ties.
“Especially if there are things that we may disagree about, it’s even more important that we are talking,” said a US official travelling with Yellen, speaking on arrival in Beijing. “I don’t think it’s fruitless, I will say that definitively.”
On Friday, Yellen will meet China’s Premier Li Qiang and former economy tsar Liu He, who is widely seen as a close confidant of President Xi Jinping.
Yellen plans to tell Chinese officials that Washington wants healthy economic competition, a senior Treasury official said on Thursday.
But she will defend US trade curbs imposed on security grounds and express concern about Beijing’s export controls on metals used in semiconductors and solar panels, said the official, who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity.
Yellen also planned to discuss “targeted action” by Washington on trade due to national security or human rights concerns, the official said.
The Chinese government has been frustrated by US curbs on China’s access to advanced processor chips on security grounds, which it has argued threatens to delay or derail the country’s efforts to develop telecoms, artificial intelligence and other technologies.
Xi accused Washington in March of trying to hamper China’s development.
Washington does not use security-related restrictions for economic benefit and considers national security “non-negotiable”, the Treasury official said.
Yellen’s visit has come less than a month after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken travelled to Beijing as part of the Biden administration’s push for greater China rapprochement.
The two countries agreed to try and stabilise relations to avoid veering into conflict, but did not announce any major breakthroughs during Blinken’s visit.