US launches new economic working groups with China in bid to quell tension

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen says working groups mark ‘important step forward’ in relationship with China.

A close-up of Janet Yellen against an American flag
'It is vital that we talk, particularly when we disagree,' US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen says [File: Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters]

The United States has launched new economic and financial working groups with China, as the two major powers seek to deepen communication amid intensifying competition.

The US Department of Treasury said on Friday that the working groups would come under the direction of Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and China’s Vice Premier He Lifeng and would meet “at a regular cadence”.

The two Working Groups will provide ongoing structured channels for frank and substantive discussions on economic and financial policy matters, as well as an exchange of information on macroeconomic and financial developments,” the department said in a statement.

The announcement comes after Yellen visited China in July as part of a push by US President Joe Biden’s administration to stabilise relations with Beijing.

Ties between China and the US 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 American push against growing Chinese influence in the Indo-Pacific.

But senior members of the Biden administration have said they are seeking to manage those tensions and are not looking for confrontation with China.

In a social media post on Friday, Yellen said the new working groups marked “an important step forward in our bilateral relationship” and built on her four-day trip to China two months ago.

“My trip to China aimed to establish a durable channel of communication between the world’s two largest economies, consistent with President Biden’s guidance following his meeting with President Xi in Bali. It is vital that we talk, particularly when we disagree,” she said.

The US and China saw relations hit their lowest point in years in February when American forces shot down a balloon Washington said was being used by Beijing to spy on its territory.

China rejected the accusation, saying the balloon was a civilian airship used for meteorological research that “deviated far from its planned course”.

The episode followed a visit to Taiwan last year by Nancy Pelosi, then the speaker of the US House of Representatives, which made her the most senior American politician to visit the island that Beijing claims as its own territory in more than two decades.

Since the balloon incident, the two sides have restarted high-level contacts, with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visiting Beijing a few weeks before Yellen’s trip.

The Biden administration has, however, continued imposing restrictions on trade with China in areas it considers crucial to national security, including high-end semiconductors.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies