(Beijing) Relations between the United States and China are now on “more solid ground”, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said on Sunday, optimistic after a four-day trip to Beijing aimed at easing tensions between the two leading world powers.
Arriving in the Chinese capital on Thursday, Ms. Yellen was received by several senior government officials, including Premier Li Qiang, and continued to plead for more exchanges and collaborations despite the differences.
“Overall, I believe that my bilateral meetings – which lasted a total of ten hours over two days – were a step forward in our efforts to establish the relationship between the United States and China on more solid foundations,” she said Sunday at a news conference at the U.S. Embassy.
The visit, Yellen’s first since taking office in 2021, comes a few weeks after that of Secretary of State Antony Blinken and marks the Biden administration’s desire to stabilize strained bilateral relations.
“Both nations have an obligation to manage this relationship responsibly: find a way to live together and share global prosperity,” the Treasury Secretary said, stressing the “vital” importance of high-level contact.
“We believe the world is big enough for our two countries to prosper.”
While no major progress has been reported, the official New China news agency pointed out that the meeting on Saturday between Ms. Yellen and Deputy Prime Minister He Lifeng had made it possible to agree on “strengthening communication and cooperation to address global challenges”.
The US Treasury Secretary admitted that there are “significant disagreements” between the two countries, but she assured that the discussions in Beijing were “direct, substantial and productive”.
The main sticking point is in semiconductors, with the imposition in recent months of restrictions to cut off Chinese companies’ supply of American technology, including chips.
China, which seeks to become autonomous in this area, believes that these measures are aimed at hindering its development and maintaining American supremacy.
The United States will continue to take “targeted actions” to preserve its national security, Yellen warned.
But “it is important to note that these actions are motivated by simple national security considerations. We don’t use them to gain economic advantage.”
As the United States considers new measures that could more strictly regulate American investments in China, the Treasury Secretary assured that these would be applied “transparently”.
“I stressed (to Chinese officials, editor’s note) that these would be very targeted measures and directed clearly at a few sectors where we have national security concerns,” she said.
“I want to allay their fears that we are doing something that will have large-scale repercussions on the Chinese economy. That’s not the case, that’s not the intention.”
She also expressed Washington’s “serious concerns” about Beijing’s “unfair trade practices” and “the recent upsurge in enforcement actions against US companies”, referring to raids and investigations targeting companies in recent months. audit in China.
“The two sides haven’t had this level of communication and consultation for several years,” said Yun Sun, director of the China program at the Stimson Center.
But while Ms. Yellen is already showing her optimism, “announcement of any concrete progress and any major results will probably be reserved for the two main leaders”.
Last month, Joe Biden said he was confident about an upcoming meeting with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.
For Lindsay Gorman, of the American think tank German Marshall Fund, “the main purpose of this trip is really to send a message” to “US allies and partners, both in the region and around the world”. .
China has been “more enthusiastic” about the US Treasury Secretary than during Blinken’s visit, notes Wu Xinbo, director of Fudan University’s Center for American Studies.
“Her attitude towards economic and trade relations between China and the United States is relatively rational,” he adds, stressing that she opposes the decoupling between the two economies.
Taylor Fravel of MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), however, calls for tempering optimism: “I don’t think a single visit or interaction alone can accomplish the goal of stabilizing relationships.”
But it shows a desire for continued economic cooperation between Washington and Beijing, “despite political friction in the relationship and competitive actions to limit China’s access to certain technologies such as semiconductors.”