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US-China relations enter stabilization phase as Blinken visits Beijing

High-level talks signal progress, but differences remain between superpowers

Source: BBC

The US and China have pledged to stabilize their tense relationship following US Secretary of State Antony Blinken's two-day visit to Beijing.

Mr. Blinken met China's President Xi Jinping for talks on Monday, restarting high-level communications between the rival superpowers.

Mr. Xi said they had made progress, while Mr. Blinken indicated that both sides were open to further talks.

But the top US diplomat made clear that there remained major differences.

"I stressed that... sustained communication at senior levels is the best way to responsibly manage differences and ensure that competition does not veer into conflict," Mr. Blinken told reporters after the 35-minute meeting at the Great Hall of the People on Tiananmen Square.

"I heard the same from my Chinese counterparts," he said. "We both agree on the need to stabilize our relationship."

But Mr. Blinken, 61, said he was "clear-eyed" about China and there were "many issues on which we profoundly - even vehemently - disagree".

Relations between Beijing and Washington have plummeted in the wake of a Trump-era trade war, Beijing's assertive claims over Taiwan and the shooting down of an alleged Chinese spy balloon over the US earlier this year.

But Mr. Xi suggested relations could be moving in a positive direction.

"The two sides have also made progress and reached agreement on some specific issues," he said, in a transcript of his remarks released by the US state department. "This is very good."

The meeting with Mr. Xi was not originally on Mr. Blinken's schedule and was only announced an hour before it took place.

It would have been widely viewed as a snub had it not happened, however, especially since Microsoft's co-founder Bill Gates met Mr. Xi in Beijing earlier this week.

Instead, the Americans will be able to point to the secretary's visit as a successful re-engagement with the Chinese government after months of frosty relations.

Mr. Xi was also sending a message to his own people that his government was reaching out to Washington.

"It is absolutely vital that we have these kinds of communications," Mr Blinken said. "This is something we're going to keep working on."

US President Joe Biden and officials in Washington have said they view the Chinese as rivals and competitors and not adversaries. It is a fine line to walk, however, as the competition - both militarily and economically - heats up.

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