Blinken Flies to China for Talks as Relations Continue to Sour

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken makes his way to Beijing this weekend to discuss the Russia-Ukraine war, co-operation on climate change, human rights, and more with his new Chinese counterpart, Minister of Foreign Affairs Qin Gang.

The trip comes days after the U.S. began halting licences for U.S. companies to export to Huawei, the latest salvo in an ever-escalating tech spat. What’s more, just yesterday, the U.S. officially opened an embassy in Honiara, Solomon Islands. The Pacific Island country has become a diplomatic battleground between the U.S. and China, with both — to the annoyance of some in Solomon Islands — wrestling for influence in the country.  

Expect more of the same post-visit: experts

Blinken’s visit builds on modest December talks between Xie Feng, one of China’s vice foreign ministers, and Daniel Kritenbrink, a U.S. assistant secretary of state. Experts say talks this weekend are unlikely to spur any “significant breakthroughs”: a laundry list of gripes and grievances continues to divide the two countries, including tensions over Hong Kong, the recent U.S. export restrictions, and Taiwan.

Taiwan in focus for Blinken, U.S.

On Friday, NBC reported that a four-star U.S. Air Force general recently sent a memo to his subordinates predicting that the U.S. “will be at war with China in two years.” The general, Mike Minihan, argued in an email, met with incredulitywithin the rank and file, that “because both Taiwan and the U.S. will have presidential elections in 2024,” the U.S. will be distracted, allowing China an opportunity to seize Taiwan.

The U.S. seems to be upping its presence around Taiwan. Earlier today, the Philippines gave the U.S. access to four additional military bases, allowing the U.S. to use the sites for “joint training, storing equipment and supplies, and building of facilities,” according to The Guardian. The U.S. already has access to five bases in the Philippines.