US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to travel to China in the coming weeks, two US officials and a source familiar with the matter told CNN, as the two countries work to reset normal relations amid what has been an extremely tumultuous and tense year in the relationship.
Planning efforts are underway for Blinken to visit Beijing, the sources said. His trip to the Chinese capital was originally scheduled for February but was postponed after the transiting of a Chinese spy balloon over the US provoked outrage from the Biden administration.
The expected trip by the top US diplomat would be a significant step in the complicated relationship between the two countries, which has come under immense strain. US officials have stressed the need for regular channels of communication in order to prevent the “competitive” relationship from veering into conflict, and they have pressed China on the US’ readiness for broader engagement at the cabinet level.
Asked about Blinken’s planned travel to China, State Department principal deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel said Tuesday, “We have no travel for the Secretary to announce; as we’ve said previously the visit to the People’s Republic of China will be rescheduled when conditions allow.”
Bloomberg first reported that the trip was expected to take place in the coming weeks.
The news of the planned rescheduled trip comes after American and Chinese officials had “candid” and “productive” discussions in Beijing on Monday, according to readouts from both nations.
According to the readout from the State Department, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Kritenbrink and NSC Senior Director for China and Taiwan Affairs Sarah Beran, accompanied by US Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns, met with Ministry of Foreign Affairs Executive Vice Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu and Director General of the North American and Oceanian Affairs Department Yang Tao.
“The two sides exchanged views on the bilateral relationship, cross-Strait issues, channels of communication, and other matters. U.S. officials made clear that the United States would compete vigorously and stand up for U.S. interests and values,” the readout said.
China’s Foreign Ministry on Tuesday said the two sides had “candid, constructive, and productive communication on improving China-US relations” and “properly managing differences” in line with the consensus reached by Chinese leader Xi Jinping and US President Joe Biden, who met on the sidelines of the G20 in Bali in November.
Blinken’s original trip was intended to follow up on the meeting between the two leaders. The decision to postpone it was made after high-level conversations between Blinken, Biden and other top national security officials, according to people familiar with the matter.
At the time, Blinken said the balloon incident “created the conditions that undermine the purpose of the trip” but said he would visit Beijing “when conditions allow.”
Last month, national security adviser Jake Sullivan met with top Chinese official Wang Yi in Vienna for “candid” and “constructive” talks, and a US senior administration official described that meeting as an attempt to put communications back on track after the spy balloon incident.
“I think both sides recognized that that unfortunate incident led to a bit of a pause in engagement. We’re seeking now to move beyond that and reestablish just a standard normal channel of communications,” the official said on a call with reporters after the meeting.
“We made clear where we stand in terms of the breach of sovereignty, we’ve been clear on that from the very get go. But again, trying to look forward from here on,” the official added, noting they focused on “how do we manage the other issues that are ongoing right now and manage the tension in the relationship that exists.”