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Xi Jinping receives US secretary of State Antony Blinken in Beijing

The key words used by both China’s leader Xi Jinping and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken were “progress” and “stabilising” when referring to China-US relations at the press conference after their 35-minute high-stakes meeting this Monday in Beijing.

Antony Blinken’s 2-day visit to China is the highest-level visit of a US official to the country in five years. In a break of protocol – which would usually dictate that heads of state only meet with other heads of state – this meeting was a first in more ways than one.

President Xii Jinping told the US delegation and Blinken directly “Interactions between States should always be based on mutual respect and sincerity. I hope that Secretary Blinken through this visit will make more positive contributions to stabilising China-US relations… The two sides have also made progress and reached agreements on some specific issues”.

The two countries had kept expectations low on addressing military or security issues that marred relations between the superpowers of China and the US, seemingly reaching an all-time high this year, focusing instead on engaging in face-to-face high-level communications to calm the waters.

The US secretary of state told the press “I stress that direct engagement and sustained communication at senior levels is the best way to responsibly manage our differences and to ensure that competition does not veer into conflict”, adding “We both agree on the need to stabilize our relationship.”

Both leaders seem to want to portray optimism while keeping expectations low on all matters causing tensions between the United States and China – from Hong Kong to the spy balloon saga, or the US senate’s ban on Chinese tech giant TikTok in the US.

A prior meeting of three hours had taken place where although they did not agree to resume contact between their two armies, Washington reported that an agreement not to arm Russia in Ukraine was reached, the US position on Taiwan was conveyed, and the two countries’ highest-ranking diplomats discussed how to calm tensions with North Korea.

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